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CHAPTER I. pabb 



the gesture-language — {continued) 34 





















In studying the phenomena of knowledge and art, religion and 
mythology, law and custom, and the rest of the complex whole 
which we call Civilization, it is not enough to have in view the 
more advanced races, and to know their history so far as direct 
records have preserved it for us. The explanation of the state 
of things in which we live has often to be sought in the con- 
dition of rude and early tribes ; and without a knowledge of 
this to guide us, we may miss the meaning even of familiar 
thoughts and practices. To take a trivial instance, the state- 
ment is true enough as it stands, that the women of modern 
Europe mutilate their ears to hang jewels in them, but the 
reason of their doing so is not to be fully found in the circum- 
stances among which we are living now. The student who 
takes a wider view thinks of the rings and bones and feathers 
thrust through the cartilage of the nose ; the weights that pull 
the slit ears in long nooses to the shoulder ; the ivory studs let 
in at the corners of the mouth; the wooden plugs as big as 
table-spoons put through slits in the under lip; the teeth of 
animals stuck point outwards through holes in the cheeks ; all 
familiar things among the lower races up and down in the 
world. The modern earring of the higher nations stands not 


as a product of our own times, but as a relic of a ruder mental 
condition, one of the many cases in which the result of progress 
has been not positive in adding, but negative in taking away, 
something belonging to an earlier state of things. 

It is indeed hardly too much to say that Civilization, being 
a process of long and complex growth, can only be thoroughly 
understood when studied through its entire range; that the 
past is continually needed to explain the present, and the whole 
to explain the part. A feeling of this may account in some 
measure for the eager curiosity which is felt for descriptions of 
the life and habits of strange and ancient races, in Cook's Voy- 
ages, Catlin's ' North American Indians/ Prescott's ' Mexico ' 
au<J ■ Peru/ even in the meagre details which antiquaries have 
succeeded in recovering of the lives of the Lake-dwellers of 
Switzerland and the Reindeer Tribes of Central France. For 
matters of practical life these people may be nothing to us; 
but in reading of them we are consciously or unconsciously 
completing the picture, and tracing out the course of life, of 
what has been so well said to be after all our most interesting 
object of study, mankind. 

Though, however, the Early History of Man is felt to be 
an attractive subject, and great masses of the materials needed 
for working it out have long been forthcoming, they have as 
yet been turned to but little account. The opinion that the 
use of facts is to illustrate theories, the confusion between 
History and Mythology, which is only now being partly cleared 
up, an undue confidence in the statements of ancient writers, 
whose means of information about times and places remote 
from themselves were often much narrower than those which 
are, ages later, at our own command, have been among the 
hindrances to the growth of sound knowledge in this direction. 
The time for writing a systematic treatise on the subject does 
not seem yet to have come; certainly nothing of the kind is 
attempted in the present series of essays, whose contents, 
somewhat miscellaneous as they are, scarcely come into contact 
with great parfc^fdHrihost important problems involved, such 
as the relation iJJPIbe bodily characters of the various races, 
the question of their origin and descent, the development of 


morals, religion, law, and many others. The matters dis- 
cussed have been chosen, not so much for their absolute im- 
portance, as because, while they are among the easiest and 
most inviting parts of the subject, it is possible so to work 
them as to bring into view certain general lines of argument, 
which apply not only to them, but also to the more complex 
and difficult problems involved in a complete treatise on the 
History of Civilization. These lines of argument, and their re- 
lation to the different essays, may be briefly stated at the outset. 

In the first place, when a general law can be inferred from 
a group of facts, the use of detailed history is very much super- 
seded. When we see a magnet attract a piece of iron, having 
come by experience to the general law that magnets attract 
iron, we do not take the trouble to go into the history of the 
particular magnet in question. To some extent this direct 
reference to general laws may be made in the study of Civili, 
zation. The four next chapters of the present book treat of the 
various ways in which man utters his thoughts, in Gestures, 
Words, Pictures, and Writing. Here, though Speech and 
Writing must be investigated historically, depending as they 
do in so great measure on the words and characters which were 
current in the world thousands of years ago, on the other hand 
the Gesture-Language and Picture- Writing may be mostly ex- 
plained without the aid of history, as direct products of the 
human mind. In the following chapter oil H Images and 
Names," an attempt is made to refer a great part of the beliefs 
and practices included under the general name of magic, to one 
very simple mental law, as resulting from a condition of mind 
which we of the more advanced races have almost outgrown, 
and in doing so have undergone one of the most notable 
changes which we can trace as having happened to mankind, 
And lastly, a particular habit of mind accounts for a class of 
stories which are here grouped together as a Myths of Obser- 
vation," as distinguished from the tales which make up the 
great bulk of the folk-lore of the world, and which latter are 
now being shown by the new school of Comparative Myco- 
logists in Germany and England to have come into existence 
also by virtue of a general law, but a very different one. 



But it is only in particular parts of Human Culture where 
the facts have not, so to speak, travelled far from their causes, 
that this direct method is practicable. Most of its phenomena 
have grown into shape out of such a complication of events, 
that the laborious piecing together of their previous history is 
the only safe way of studying them. It is easy to see how far 
a theologian or a lawyer would go wrong who should throw 
history aside, and attempt to explain, on abstract principles, 
the existence of the Protestant Church or the Code Napoleon. 
A Komanesque or an Early English cathedral is not to be 
studied as though all that the architect had to do was to take 
stone and mortar and set up a building for a given purpose. 
The development of the architecture of Greece, its passage 
into the architecture of Rome, the growth of Christian cere- 
mony and symbolism, are only part of the elements which went 
to form the state of things in which the genius of the builder 
had to work out the requirements of the moment. The late 
Mr. Buckle did good service in urging students to look through 
the details of history to the great laws of Human Development 
which lie behind ; but his attempt to explain, by a few rash 
generalizations, the complex phases of European history, is a 
warning of the danger of too hasty an appeal to first principles. 
As, however, the earlier civilization lies very much out of the 
beaten track of history, the place of direct records has to be 
supplied in great measure by indirect evidence, such as Anti- 
quities, Language, and Mythology. This makes it generally 
difficult to get a sound historical basis to work on, but there 
happens to be a quantity of material easily obtainable, which 
bears on the development of some of the more common and 
useful arts, Thus in the eighth and ninth chapters, the tran- 
sition from implements of stone to those of metal is demon- 
strated to have taken place in almost every district of the habi- 
table globe, and a progress from ruder to more perfect modes 
of making fire and boiling food is traced in many different 
countries ; while in the seventh, evidence is collected on the 
important problem of the relation which Progress has borne to 
_JDecline in art and knowledge in the history of the world. 

In the remote times and places where direct history is at 


fault, the study of Civilization, Culture- Hi story as it is conve- 
niently called in Germany, becomes itself an important aid to 
the historian, as a means of re-constructing the lost records of 
early or barbarous times. But its use as contributing to the 
early history of mankind depends mainly on the answering of 
the following question, which runs through all the present 
essays, and binds them together as various cases of a single 

When similar arts, customs, or legends are found in several 
distant regions, among peoples not known to be of the same 
stock, how is this similarity to be accounted for ? Sometimes 
it may be ascribed to the like working of men's minds under 
like conditions, and sometimes it is a proof of blood relationship 
or of intercourse, direct or indirect, between: the races among 
whom it is found. In the one case it has no historical value 
whatever, while in the other it has this value in a high degree, 
and the ever-recurring problem is how to distinguish between 
the two. An example on each side may serve to bring the 
matter into a clearer light. 

The general prevalence of a belief in the continuance of the 
soul's existence after death, does not prove that all mankind 
have inherited such a belief from a common souroe. It may 
have been so, but the historical argument is made valueless 
by the fact that certain natural phenomena may have sug- 
gested to the mind of man, while in a certain stage of develop- 
ment, the idea of a future state, and this not once only, but 
again and again in different regions and at different times. 
These phenomena may prove nothing of the kind to us, but 
that is not the question. The reasoning of the savage is not 
to be judged by the rules which belong to a higher education ; 
and what the ethnologist requires in such a case, is not to 
know what the facts prove to his own mind, but what inference 
the very differently trained mind of the savage may draw from 

The belief that man has a soul capable of existing apart from 
the body it belongs to, and continuing to live, for a time at 
least, after that body is dead and buried, fits perfectly in such 
a mind with the fact that the shadowy forms of men and women 


do appear to others, when the men and women themselves are 
at a distance, and after they are dead. We call these appari- 
tions dreams or phantasms, according as the person to whom 
they appear is asleep or awake, and when we hear of their 
occurrence in ordinary life, set them down as subjective pro- 
cesses of the mind. We do not think that the phantom of the 
dark Brazilian who used to haunt Spinoza was a real person ; 
that the head which stood before a late distinguished English 
peer, whenever he was out of health, was a material object ; that 
the fiends which torment the victim of delirium tremens, are 
what and where they seem to him to be ; that any real occur- 
rence corresponds to the dreams of the old men who tell us 
they were flogged last night at school. It is only a part of 
mankind, however, who thus disconnect dreams and visions 
jfrom the objects whose forms they bear. Among the less 
civilized races, the separation of subjective and objective im- 
pressions, which in this, as in several other matters, makes the 
most important difference between the educated man and the 
savage, is much less fully carried out. This is indeed true to 
some extent among the higher nations, for no Greenlander or 
Kafir ever mixed up his subjectivity with the evidence of his 
senses into a more hopeless confusion than the modern spiritu- 
alist. As the subject is only brought forward here as an illus- 
tration, it is not necessary to go at length into its details. A 
few picked examples will bring into view the two great theories 
of dreams and visions, current among the lower races. One is, 
that when a man is asleep or seeing visions, the figures which 
appear to him come from their places and stand over against 
him ; the other, that the soul of the dreamer or seer goes out 
on its travels, and comes home with a remembrance of what it 
has seen. 

The Australians, says Sir George Grey, believe that the 
nightmare is caused by an evil spirit. To get rid of it they 
jump up, catch a lighted brand from the fire, and with various 
muttered imprecations fling it in the direction where they think 
the spirit is. He simply came for a light, and having got it, 
he will go away. 1 Others tell of the demon Koin, a creature 
1 Grey, ' Journals ; ' London, 1841, vol. ii. p, 339. 


who has the appearance of a native, and like them is painted 
with pipe-clay and carries a fire-stick. He comes sometimes 
when they are asleep and carries a man off as an eagle does its 
prey. The shout of the victim's companions makes the demon 
let him drop, or else he carries him off to his fire in the bush. 
The unfortunate black tries to cry out, but feels himself all but 
choked and cannot. At daylight Koin disappears, and the 
native finds himself brought safely back to his own fireside. 1 
Even in Europe, such expressions as being ridden by a hag or 
by the devil, preserve the recollection of a similar train of 
thought. In the evil demons who trouble people in their sleep, 
the Incubi and Succubi, the beLef in this material and personal 
character of the figures seen in dreams comes strongly out, 
perhaps nowhere more strikingly than among the natives of the 
Tonga Islands. 2 "Whoso seeth me in his sleep," said Mo- 
hammed, " seeth me truly, for Satan cannot assume the simili- 
tude of my form." 

Mr. St. John says that the Dayaks regard dreams as actual 
occurrences. They think that in sleep the soul sometimes re- 
mains in the body, and sometimes leaves it and travels far 
away, and that both when in and out of the body it sees and 
hears and talks, and altogether has a prescience given to it, 
which, when the body is in its natural state, it does not enjoy. 
Fainting fits, or a state of coma, are thought to be caused by 
the departure or absence of the soul on some distant expedition 
of its own. When a European dreams of his distant country, 
the Dayaks think his soul has annihilated space, and paid a 
flying visit to. Europe during the night. 3 Yery many tribes be- 
lieve in this way that dreams are incidents which happen to 
the spirit in its wanderings from the body, and the idea has 
even expressed itself in a superstitious objection to Waking a 
sleeper, for fear of disturbing his body while his soul is out. 4 
Father Charlevoix found both the theories in question current 

1 Backhouse, ' Visit to the Australian Colonies ; ' London, 1843, p. 555. 

2 Mariner, ' Tonga Islands ; ' 2nd ed., London, 1818, vol. ii. p. 112. 

3 St. John, ■ Forests of the Far East ;' London, 1862, vol. i. p. 189. 

4 Bastian, * Der Mensch in der Geschichte ;' Leipzig, 1860, vol. ii. p. 318, 
etc. etc. 


among the Indians of North America. A dream might either 
be a visit from the soul of the object dreamt of, or it might be 
one of the souls of the dreamer going about the world, while 
the other — for every man has two — stayed behind with the body. 
Dreams, they think, are of supernatural origin, and it is a reli- 
gious duty to attend to them. That the white men should look 
upon a dream as a matter of no consequence is a thing they 
cannot understand. 1 

How like a dream is to the popular notion of a soul, a shade, 
a spirit, or a ghost, need not be said* But there are facts 
which bring the dream and the ghost into yet closer connection 
than follows from mere resemblance* Thus the belief is found 
among the Finnish races that the spirits of the dead can plague 
the living in their sleep, and bring sickness and harm upon 
them. 2 Herodotus relates that the Nasamones practise divina- 
tion in the following manner : — they resort to the tombs of 
their ancestors, and after offering prayers, go to sleep by them, 
and whatever dream appears to them they take for their answer. 3 
In modern Africa, the missionary Casalis says of the Basuto, 
" Persons who are pursued in their sleep by the image of a de- 
ceased relation, are often known to sacrifice a victim on the 
tomb of the defunct, in order, as they say, to calm his dis- 
quietude." 4 Clearly, then, a man who thinks he sees in sleep 
the apparitions of his dead relatives and friends has a reason 
for believing that their spirits outlive their bodies, and this 
reason lies in no far-fetched induction, but in what seems to 
be the plain evidence of his senses. I have set the argument 
down as belonging especially to the lower stages of mental de- 
velopment, though indeed I have been startled by hearing it 
myself urged in sober earnest very far outside the range of 
savage life. 

It is interesting to read how Lucretius, reasoning against 

1 Charlevoix, Hist, et Descr. Gen. de la Nouvelle-F ranee ; Paris, 1744, vol. 
vi. p. 78. 

2 Castren, ' Torlesungen fiber die Finnische Mythologie ;' (Tr. and Ed. 
Schiefner ;) St. Petersburg, 1853, p. 120. 

3 Herod, iv. 172. See Mela i. 8. 

* Casalis, ' The Basutos ;' London, 1861, p. 245. 


the belief in a future life, takes notice of the argument from 
dreams as telling against him, and states, in opposition to it, 
his doctrine that not dreams only, but even ordinary appear- 
ances and imaginations, are caused by film-like images which 
fly off from the surfaces of real objects, and come in contact 
with our minds and senses, — 

" Touching these matters, let me now explain, 
How there are so-called images of things 
Which, like films torn from bodies' outmost face 
Hither and thither flutter through the air. 
These scare us, meeting us in waking hours, 
And in our dreams, when oftentimes we see 
Marvellous shapes, and phantoms of the dead 
Which oft have roused us horror-struck from sleep. 
Lest we should judge perchance that souls escape 
From Acheron* shades flit 'mid living men, 
Or aught of us can after death endure." 1 

Never, perhaps, has the train of thought which the Epicurean 
poet so ingeniously combats been more clearly drawn out than 
in Madge Wildfire's rambling talk of her dead baby, " Whiles 
I think my puir bairn's dead — ye ken very weel it's buried — 
but that signifies naething. I have had it on my knee a hun- 
dred times, and a hundred till that, since it was buried — and 
how could that be were it dead, ye ken — it's merely impos- 

It appears then, from these considerations, that when we find 
dim notions of a future state current in the remotest regions 
of the world, we must not thence assume that they were all 

1 Lucret. : — ' De Kerum Natura,' iv. 29-39 : — 

" Nunc agere incipiam tibi, quod vementer ad has res 
Attinet> esse ea quee rerum simulacra vocamus ; 
Quae, quasi membranse summo de corpore rerum 
Dereptse, volitant ultroque citroque per auras, 
Atque eadem nobis vigilantibus obvia mentea 
Terrificant atque in somnis, cum ssepe figuras 
Contuimur miras simulacraque luce carentum, 
Quae nos horrifice languentis ssepe sopore 
Excierunt ; ne forte animas Acherunte reamur 
Effugere aut umbras inter vivos volitare, 
Neve aliquid nostri post mortem posse relinqui." 


diffused from a single geographical centre. The case is one in 
which any one plausible explanation from natural causes is 
sufficient to bar the argument from historical connection. On 
the other hand, there is nothing to hinder such an argument 
in the following case, which is taken as showing the opposite 
side of the problem. 

The great class of stories known as Beast Fables have of late 
risen much in public estimation. In old times they were lis- 
tened to by high and low with the keenest enjoyment for their 
own sake. Then they were wrested from their proper nature 
into means of teaching little moral lessons, and at last it came 
to be the most contemptuous thing that could be said of a silly, 
pointless tale, to call it a " cock and bull story/' In our own 
day, however, a generation among whom there has sprung up 
a new knowledge of old times, and with it a new sympathy 
with old thoughts and feelings, not only appreciate the beast 
fables for themselves, but find in their diffusion over the world 
an important aid to early history. Thus Dr. Dasent, in his 
Introduction to the Norse Tales, has shown that popular 
stories found in the west and south of Africa must have come 
from the same source with old myths current in distant regions 
of Europe. Still later, Dr. Bleek has published a collection 
of Hottentot Fables, 1 which shows that other mythic episodes, 
long familiar in remote countries, have established themselves 
among these rude people as household tales. 

A Dutchman found a Snake, who was lying under a great 
stone, and could not get away. He lifted up the stone, and set 
her free, but when he had done it she wanted to eat him. The 
Man objected to this, and appealed to the Hare and the Hyena, 
but both said it was right. Then they asked the Jackal, but he 
would not even believe the thing could have happened unless 
he saw it with his two eyes. So the Snake lay down, and the 
Man put the stone upon her, just to show how it was. " Now 
let her lie there," said the Jackal. This is only another version 
of the story of the Ungrateful Crocodile, which the sage Duban 
declined to tell the king while the executioner was standing 
ready to cut his head off. It is given by Mr. Lane in his Notes 
1 Bleek, 'Reynard the Fox in South Africa;' London, 1864, pp. 11-13, 16, 19, 23. 


to the Arabian Nights/ and I am not sure that the simpler 
Hottentot version is not the neater of the two. Again, the 
name of Reynard in South Africa, given by Dr. Bleek to his 
Hottentot tales, is amply justified by their containing familiar 
episodes belonging to the mediaeval H Reynard the Fox." 2 The 
Jackal shams death and lies in the road till the fish-waggon 
comes by, and the waggoner throws him in to make a kaross 
of his skin, but the cunning beast throws a lot of fish out into 
the road, and then jumps out himself. In another place, the 
Lion is sick, and all the beasts go to see him but the Jackal. 
His enemy the Hyena fetches him to give his advice, so he 
comes before the Lion, and says he has been to ask the witch 
what was to be done for his sick uncle, and the remedy is for 
the Lion to pull the Hyena's skin off over his ears, and put it 
on himself while it is Warm. Again, the trick by which Chan- 
ticleer gets his head out of Reynard's mouth by making him 
answer the farmer, reminds one of the way in which, in the 
Hottentot tale, the Cock makes the Jackal say his prayers, and 
when the outwitted beast folds his hands and shuts his eyes, 
flies off and makes his escape. Of course these tales, though 
adapted to native circumstances and with very clever native 
turns, may be all of very recent introduction. Such a story as 
that which introduces a fish-waggon, would be naturally referred 
to the Dutch boers, from whom indeed all the Reynard stories 
are likely to have come. One curious passage tends to show 
that the stories are taken, not from the ancient versions of 
Reynard, but from some interpolated modern rendering. A 
proof that Jacob Grimm brings forward of the independent, 
secluded course of the old German Beast- Saga, is, that it did 
not take up into itself stories long current elsewhere, which would 
have fitted admirably into it, — thus, for instance, iEsop's story 
of the Fox who will not go into the Lion's den because he only 
sees the footsteps going in, but none coming out, is nowhere to 
be found in the mediaeval Reynard. But we find in the Hot- 
tentot tales that this very episode has found its way in, and 

1 Lane x ■ The Thousand and One Nights,' new edit., London, 1859, vol. i. 
pp. 84, 114. 

2 Jacob Grimm, { Keinhart Fuchs ;' Berlin^ 1834) pp. cxxn\ 1. 30, cclxxii. 


exactly into its fitting place. u The Lion, it is said, was ill, and 
they all went to see him in his suffering. But the Jackal did 
not go, because the traces of the people who went to see him 
did not turn back." 

As it happens, we know from other sources enough to ex- 
plain the appearance in South Africa of stories from Reynard 
and the Arabian Nights by referring them to European or 
Moslem influence. But even without such knowledge, the 
tales themselves prove an historical connection, near or remote, 
between Europe, Egypt, and South Africa* To try to make 
such evidence stand alone is a more ambitious task. In a 
chapter on the Geographical Distribution of Myths, I have 
compared a series of stories collected on the American Conti- 
nent with their analogues elsewhere, endeavouring thereby to 
show an historical connection between the mythology of Ame- 
rica and that of the rest of the world, but with what success 
the reader must decide. In another chapter, some remarkable 
customs, which are found spread over distant tracts of country, 
are examined in order to ascertain, if possible, whether any 
historical argument may be" grounded upon them. 

For the errors which no doubt abound in the present essays, 
and for the superficial working of a great subject, a word may 
be said in apology. In discussing questions in which some- 
times the leading facts have never before been even roughly 
grouped, it is very difficult not only to reject the wrong evi- 
dence, but to reproduce the right with accuracy, and the way 
in which new information comes in, which quite alters the face 
of the old, does not tend to promote over-confidence in first re- 
sults. For instance, after having followed other observers in 
setting down as peculiar to the South Sea Islands, in or near 
the Samoan group, an ingenious little drilling instrument 
which will be hereafter described, I found it kept in stock in 
the London tool shops ; mistakes of this kind must be frequent 
till our knowledge of the lower civilization is much more tho- 
roughly collected and sifted. More accuracy might indeed be 
obtained by keeping to a very small number of subjects, but 
our accounts of the culture of the lower races, being mostly 
unclassified, have to be gone through as a whole, and up to a 


certain point it is a question whether the student of a very 
limited field might not lose more in largeness of view than he 
gained by concentration. Whatever be the fate of my argu- 
ments, any one who collects and groups a mass of evidence, 
and makes an attempt to turn it to account which may lead to 
something better, has, I think, a claim to be exempt from any 
very harsh criticism of mistakes and omissions. As the Knight 
says in the beginning of his Tale : — 

" I have, God wot, a large feeld to ere j 
And wayke ben the oxen in my plough." 

[Beside ordinary references, I wish to acknowledge separately some 
particular obligations. My friend Mr, Henry Christy has given me, for 
years past, not only the benefit of his wide knowledge of ethnography, 
but also the opportunity of studying the productions of the lower races 
from the carefully chosen specimens in his great collection. I am in- 
debted to Dr. W. E. Scott, the Director of the Deaf and Dumb Institu- 
tion, at Exeter, for much of the assistance which has enabled me to write 
about the Gesture*Language with something of the confidence of an 
" expert ;" and I have to thank Prof. Pott, of Halle, and Prof. Lazarus, 
of Berne, for personal help in several difficult questions. Among books, 
I have drawn largely from the philological works of Prof. Steinthal, of 
Berlin, and from the invaluable collection of facts bearing on the history 
of civilization in the ' Allgemeine Cultur-Geschichte der Menschheit,' and 
1 Allgemeine Culturvvissenschaft,' of Dr. Gustav Klemm, of Dresden.] 




The power which man possesses of uttering his thoughts is 
one of the most essential elements of his civilization. Whether 
he can even think at all without some means of outward expres- 
sion is a metaphysical question which need not be discussed 
here. Thus much will hardly be denied by any one, that man's 
power of utterance, so far exceeding any that the lower animals 
possess, is one of the principal causes of his immense pre-emi- 
nence over them. 

Of the means which man has of uttering or expressing that 
which is in his mind, speech is by far the most important, so 
much so that when we speak of uttering our thoughts, the 
phrase is understood to mean expressing them in words. But 
when we say that man's power of utterance is one of the great 
differences between him and the lower animals, we must attach 
to the word utterance a sense more fully conformable to its 
etymology. As Steinthal admits, the deaf-and-dumb man is 
the living refutation of the proposition, that man cannot think 
without speech, unless we allow the understood notion of speech 
as the utterance of thought by articulate sounds to be too nar- 
row. 1 To utter a thought is literally to put it outside us, as to 
express it is to squeeze it out. Grossly material as these meta- 
phors are, they are the best terms we have for that wonderful 

1 Steinthal, c Ueber die Sprache der Taubstummen' (in Prutz's ' Deutsches Mu- 
seum,' Jan. to June, 1851, p. 904, etc.). 


process by which a man, by some bodily action, can not only 
make other men's minds reproduce more or less exactly the 
workings of his own, but can even receive back from the out- 
ward sign an impression similar to theirs, as though not he 
himself, but some one else, had made it. 

Besides articulate speech, the principal means by which man 
can express what is in his mind are the Gesture-Language, 
Picture -Writing, and Word- Writing. If we knew now, what 
we hope to know some day, how Language sprang up and grew 
in the world, our knowledge of man's earliest condition and 
history would stand on a very different basis from what it now 
does. But we know so little about the Origin of Language, 
that even the greatest philologists are forced either to avoid 
the subject altogether, or to turn themselves into metaphysi- 
cians in order to discuss it. The Gesture-Language and Pic- 
ture-Writing, however, insignificant as they are in practice in 
comparison with Speech and Phonetic Writing, have this great 
claim to consideration, that we can really understand them as 
thoroughly as perhaps we can understand anything, and by 
studying them we can realize to ourselves in some measure a 
condition of the human mind which underlies anything which 
has as yet been traced in even the lowest dialect of Language, 
if taken as a whole. Though, with the exception of words 
which are evidently imitative, like " peewit " and (( cuckoo/' 
we cannot at present tell by what steps man came to express 
himself by words, we can at least see how he still does come to 
express himself by signs and pictures, and so get some idea of 
the nature of this great movement, which no lower animal is 
known to have made or shown the least sign of making. There 
is, however, no proof that man passed through any intermediate 
stage, such as the use of gestures, before he spoke. This 
theory, though by no means contemptible, has, so far as at pre- 
sent appears, no sufficient support from observed facts. 

The Gesture-Language, or Language of Signs, is in great 
part a system of representing objects and ideas by a rude out- 
line-gesture, imitating their most striking features. It is, as 
has been well said by a deaf-and-dumb man, tf a picture-lan- 
guage." Here at once its essential difference from speech be- 


comes evident. Why the words stand and go mean what they 
do is a question to which we cannot as yet give the shadow of 
an answer, and if we had been taught to say ' ' stand " where 
we now say u go/' and " go " where we now say ' ' stand/' it 
would be practically all the same to us. No doubt there was a 
sufficient reason for these words receiving the meanings they 
now bear, as indeed there is a sufficient reason for everything ; 
but so far as we are concerned, there might as well have been 
none, for we have quite lost sight of the connection between 
the word and the idea. But in the gesture -language the rela- 
tion between idea and sign not only always exists, but is scarcely 
lost sight of for a moment. When a deaf-and-dumb child holds 
his two first fingers forked like a pair of legs, and makes them 
stand and walk upon the table, we want no teaching to show 
us what this means, nor why it is done. 

This definition of the gesture-language is, however, not 
complete. Such objects as are actually in the presence of the 
speaker, or may be supposed so, are brought bodily into the 
conversation by touching, pointing, or looking towards them, 
either to indicate the objects themselves or one of their charac- 
teristics. Thus if a deaf and dumb man touches his underlip 
with his forefinger, the context must decide whether he means 
to indicate the lip itself or the colour ' ' red/' unless, as is some- 
times done, he shows by actually taking hold of the lip with 
finger and thumb, that it is the lip itself, and not its quality, 
that he means. Under the two classes ' ' pictures in the air n 
and things brought before the mind by actual pointing out, the 
whole of the sign-language may be included. 

It is in Deaf and Dumb Institutions that the gesture-lan- 
guage may be most conveniently studied, and what slight prac- 
tical knowledge I have of it has been got in this way in Ger- 
many and in England. In these institutions, however, there 
are grammatical signs used in the gesture-language which do 
not fairly belong to it, These are mostly signs adapted, or 
perhaps invented, by teachers who had the use of speech, to ex- 
press ideas which do not come within the scope of the very 
limited natural grammar and dictionary of the deaf-and-dumb. 
But it is to be observed that though the deaf-and-dumb have 


been taught to understand these signs and use them in school, 
they ignore them in their ordinary talk, and will have nothing 
to do with them if they can help it. 

By dint of instruction, deaf-mutes oan be taught to commu- 
nicate their thoughts, and to learn from books and men in 
nearly the same way as we do, though in a more limited de- 
gree. They learn to read and write, to spell out sentences 
with the finger-alphabet, and to understand words so spelt by 
others ; and besides this, they can be taught to speak in articu- 
late language, though in a hoarse and unmodulated voice, and 
when another speaks, to follow the motions of his lips almost 
as though they could hear the words uttered. 

It may be remarked here, once for all, that the general public 
often confuses the real deaf-and-dumb language of signs, in 
which objects and actions are expressed by pantomimic ges- 
tures, with the deaf-and-dumb finger-alphabet, which is a mere 
substitute for alphabetic writing. It is not enough to say that 
the two things are distinct ; they have nothing whatever to do 
with one another, and have no more resemblance than a picture 
has to a written description of it. Though of little scientific 
interest, the finger-alphabet is of great practical use. It appears 
to have been invented in Spain, to which country the world 
owes the first systematic deaf-and-dumb teaching, by Juan 
Pablo Bonet, in whose work a one-handed alphabet is set forth 
differing but little from that now in use in Germany, or perhaps 
by his predecessor, Pedro de Ponce. The two-handed or 
French alphabet, generally used in England, is of newer date. 1 

The mother-tongue (so to speak) of the deaf-and-dumb is^ 
the language of signs. The evidence of the best observers 
tends to prove that they are capable of developing the gesture^ 
language out of their own minds without the aid of speaking 
men. Indeed the deaf-mutes in general surpass the rest of the 
world in their power of using and understanding signs, and for 
this simple reason, that though the gesture-language is the 
common property of all mankind, it is seldom cultivated and 

1 Bonet, ■ Reduction de las Letras, y Arte para ensefiar a ablar los Mudos ;' 
Madrid, 1620 ; pp. 128, etc. Schmalz, ' Ueber die Taubstummen ;' Dresden and 
Leipzig, 1848 ; pp. 214, 352. 



developed to so high a degree by those who have the use of 
speech, as by those who cannot speak, and must therefore have 
recourse to other means of communication. The opinions of 
two or three practical observers may be cited to show that the 
gesture-language is not, like the finger-alphabet, an art learnt 
in the first instance from the teacher, but an independent pro- 
cess originating in the mind of the deaf-mute, and developing 
itself as his knowledge and power of reasoning expand under 

Samuel Heinicke, the founder of deaf-and-dumb teaching in 
Germany, remarks: — "He (the deaf-mute) prefers keeping to 
his pantomime, which is simple and short, and comes to him 
fluently as a mother-tongue." 1 Schmalz says : — " Not less com- 
prehensible are many signs which we indeed do not use in ordi- 
nary life, but which the deaf-and-dumb child uses, having no 
means of communicating with others but by signs. These 
signs consist principally in drawing in the air the shape of 
objects to be suggested to the mind, indicating their character, 
imitating the movement of the body in an action to be de- 
scribed, or the use of a thing, its origin, or any other of its 
notable peculiarities." 3 " With regard to signs," says Dr. 
Scott, of Exeter, " the (deaf-and-dumb) child will most likely 
have already fixed upon signs by which it names most of the 
objects given in the above lesson (pin, key, etc.), and which it 
uses in its intercourse with its friends. These signs had always 
better be retained (by the child's family), and if a word has not 
received such a sign, endeavour to get the child to fix upon 
one. It will do this most probably better than you." 3 

The Abbe Sicard, one of the first and most eminent of the 
men who have devoted their lives to the education and "hu- 
manizing " of these afflicted creatures, has much the same ac- 
count to give. "It is not I," he says, "who am to invent 
these signs. I have only to set forth the theory of them under 
the dictation of their true inventors, those whose language 
consists of these signs. It is for the deaf-and-dumb to make 
them, and for me to tell how they are made. They must be 

1 Heinicke, { Beobachtungen iiber Stumme,' etc. ; Hamburg, 1778, p. 56. 

2 Schmalz, p. 267. 3 Scott, 'The Deaf and Dumb;' London, 1844, p. 84. 


drawn from the nature of the objects they are to represent. It 
is only the signs given by the mute himself to express the 
actions which he witnesses, and the objects which are brought 
before him, which can replace articulate language." Speaking 
of his celebrated deaf-and-dumb pupil, Massieu, he says : — 
"Thus, by a happy exchange, as I taught him the written 
signs of our language, Massieu taught me the mimic signs of 
his." " So it must be said that it is neither I nor my admi- 
rable master (the Abbe de TEpee) who are the inventors of the 
deaf-and-dumb language. And as a foreigner is not fit to 
teach a Frenchman French, so the speaking man has no busi- 
ness to meddle with the invention of signs, giving them abstract 
values." 1 All these are modern statements; but long before 
the days of Deaf and Dumb Institutions, Eabelais' sharp eye 
had noticed how natural and appropriate were the untaught 
signs made by born deaf-mutes. When Panurge is going to try 
by divination from signs what his fortune will be in married 
life, Pantagruel thus counsels him : — " Pourtant, vous fault 
choisir ung mut sourd de nature, afiin que ses gestes vous 
soyent naifuement propheticques, non fainctz, fardez, ne 

Nor are we obliged to depend upon the observations of ordi- 
nary speaking men for our knowledge of the way in which the 
gesture-language developes itself in the mind of the deaf-and- 
dumb. The educated deaf-mutes can tell us from their own 
experience how gesture-signs originate. The following account 
is given by Kruse, a deaf-mute himself, and a well-known 
teacher of deaf-mutes, and author of several works of no small 
ability: — "Thus the deaf-and-dumb must have a language, 
without which no thought can be brought to pass. But here 
nature soon comes to his help. What strikes him most, or 
what . . . makes a distinction to him between one thing and 
another, such distinctive signs of objects are at once signs by 
which he knows these objects, and knows them again; they 
become tokens of things. And whilst he silently elaborates 
the signs he has found for single objects, that is, whilst he de- 
scribes their forms for himself in the air, or imitates them in 

1 Sicard, 'Cours d'Instruction d'un Sourd-muet;' Paris, 1803, pp. xlv, 18. 



thought with hands, fingers, and gestures, he developes for 
himself suitable signs to represent ideas, which serve him as a 
means of fixing ideas of different kinds in his mind and re- 
calling them to his memory. And thus he makes himself a 
language, the so-called gesture- language (Geberden-sjjrache) ; 
and with these few scanty and imperfect signs, a way for 
thought is already broken, and with his thought as it now 
opens out, the language cultivates and forms itself further and 
further/' 1 

I will now give some account of the particular dialect (so to 
speak) of the gesture-language, which is current in the Berlin 
Deaf and Dumb Institution. 2 I made a list of about 500 signs, 
taking them down from my teacher, Carl Wilke, who is himself 
deaf-and-dumb. They talk of 5000 signs being in common use 
there, but my list contains the most important. First, as to 
the signs themselves, the following, taken at random, will give 
an idea of the general principle on which all are formed. 

To express the pronouns "I, thou, he," I push my fore- 
finger against the pit of my stomach for "I;" push it towards 
the person addressed for " thou;" point with my thumb over 
my right shoulder for " he ;" and so on. 

When I hold my right hand flat with the palm down, at the 
level of my waist, and raise it towards the level of my shoulder, 
that signifies "great;" but if I depress it instead, it means 

The sign for ' ' man " is the motion of taking off the hat ; for 
" woman," the closed hand is laid upon the breast ; for " child," 
the right elbow is dandled upon the left hand. 

The adverb "hither" and the verb "to come" have the 
same sign, beckoning with the finger toward oneself. 

To hold the first two fingers apart, like a letter V, and dart 
the finger tips out from the eyes, is to " see." To touch the 

1 Kruse, ' Ueber Taubstummen,' etc. ; Schleswig, 1853, p. 51. 

2 Whether the " dialects " of the different deaf-and-dumb institutions have re- 
ceived any considerable proportion of natural signs from one another, as, for in- 
stance, by the spreading of the system of teaching from Paris, I am unable -to 
say ; but there is so much in each that differs from the others in detail, though 
not in principle, that they may, I think, be held as practically independent, ex- 
cept as regards grammatical signs. 


ear and tongue with the fore-finger, is to "hear" and to 
"taste." Whatever is to be pointed out, the fore-finger, so 
appropriately called " index," has to point out or indicate. 
". . . atque ipsa videtur 
Protrahere ad gestum pueros infantia linguae 
Quom facit ut digito quae sint prsesentia monstrent." 1 

To " speak n is to move the lips as in speaking (all the deaf- 
and-dumb are taught to speak in articulate words in the Berlin 
establishment), and to move the lips thus, while pointing with 
the fore-finger out from the mouth, is " name," or "to name," 
as though one should define it to u point out by speaking." 

The outline of the shape of roof and walls done in the air 
with two hands is "house;" with a flat roof it is " room." To 
smell as at a flower, and then with the two hands make a hori- 
zontal circle before one, is " garden." 

To pull up a pinch of flesh from the back of one's hand is 
"flesh" or "meat." Make the steam curling up from it with 
the fore-finger, and it becomes " roast meat." Make a bird's 
bill with two fingers in front of one's lips and flap with the 
arms, and that means " goose ; " put the first sign and these 
together, and we have " roast goose." 

How natural all these imitative signs are. They want no 
elaborate explanation. To seize the most striking outline of 
an object, the principal movement of an action, is the whole 
secret, and this is what the rudest savage can do untaught, 
nay, what is more, can do better and more easily than the edu- 
cated man. " None of my teachers here who can speak," said 
the Director of ihe Institution, " are very strong in the gesture- 
language. It is difficult for an educated speaking man to get 
the proficiency in it which a deaf-and-dumb child attains to 
almost without an effort. It is true that I can use it perfectly; 
but I have been here forty years, and I made it my business 
from the first to become thoroughly master of it. To be able 
to speak is an impediment, not an assistance, in acquiring the 
^gesture-language. The habit of thinking in words, and trans- 
lating these words into signs, is most difficult to shake off; but 
until this is done, it is hardly possible to place the signs in the 
1 Lucretius, v. 1029. 


logical sequence in which they arrange themselves in the mind 
of the deaf-nmte." 

As new things come under the notice of the deaf-and-dumb, 
of course new signs immediately come up for them. So to 
express " railway " and " locomotive/' the left hand makes a 
chimney, and the steam curling almost horizontally out is imi- 
tated with the right fore-finger. The tips of the fingers of the 
half-closed hand coming towards one like rays of light, is u pho- 

But the casual observer, who should take down every sign 
he saw used in class by masters and pupils, as belonging to the 
natural gesture-language, would often get a very wrong idea of 
its nature. Teachers of the deaf-and-dumb have thought it 
advisable for practical purposes, not merely to use the inde- 
pendent development of the language of signs, but to add to 
it and patch it so as to make it more strictly equivalent to their 
own speech and writing. For this purpose signs have to be 
introduced, for many words of which the pupil mostly learns the 
meaning through their use in writing, and is taught to use the 
sign where he would use the word. Thus, the clenched fists, 
pushed forward with the thumbs up, mean u yet." To throw 
the fingers gently open from the temple means " when." To 
move the closed hands with the thumbs out, up and down upon 
one's waistcoat, is to " be." All these signs may, it is true, be 
based upon natural gestures. Dr. Scott, for instance, explains 
the sign "when" as formed in this way. But this kind of 
derivation does not give them a claim to be included in the 
pure gesture-language ; and it really does not seem as though 
it would make much difference to the children if the sign for 
"when" were used for "yet," and so on. 

The Abbe Sicard has left us a voluminous account of the 
sign-language he used, which may serve as an example of the 
curious hybrid systems which grow up in this way, by the 
grafting of the English, or French, or German grammar and 
dictionary on the gesture-language. Sicard was strongly im- 
pressed with the necessity of using the natural signs, and even 
his most arbitrary ones may have been based on such ; but he 
had set himself to make gestures do whatever words can do, 


and was thereby often driven to strange shifts. Yet he either 
drew so directly from his deaf-and-dumb scholars, or succeeded 
so well in learning to think in their way, that it is often very 
hard to say exactly where the influence of spoken or written 
language comes in. For instance, the deaf-mute borrows the 
signs of space, as we do similar words, to express notions of 
time ; and Sicard, keeping to these real signs, and only using 
them with a degree of analysis which has hardly been attained 
to but by means of words, makes the present tense of his verb 
by indicating " here " with the two hands held out, palm down- 
ward, the past tense by the hand thrown back over the shoulder, 
"behind," the future by putting the hand out, "forward." 
But when he takes on his conjugation to such tenses as " I 
should have carried," he is merely translating words into more 
or less appropriate signs. Again, by the aid of two fore-fingers 
hooked together, — to express, I suppose, the notion of depen- 
dence or connection, — he distinguishes between moi and me, 
and by translating two abstract grammatical terms from words 
into signs, he introduces another conception quite foreign to 
the pure gesture-language. Jf something that has been signed 
is a substantive, he puts the right hand under the left, to show 
that it is that which stands underneath; while if it is an adjec- 
tive, he puts the right hand on the top, to show that it is the 
quality which lies upon or is added to the substantive below. 1 

These partly artificial systems are probably very useful in 
teaching, but they are not the real gesture-language, and what 
is more, the foreign element so laboriously introduced seems to 
have little power of holding its ground there. So far as I can 
learn, few or none of the factitious grammatical signs will bear 
even the short journey from the schoolroom to the playground, 
where there is no longer any verb " to be," where the abstract 
conjunctions are unknown, and where mere position, quality, 
action, may serve to describe substantive and adjective alike. 

At Berlin, as in all deaf-and-dumb institutions, there are 
numbers of signs which, though most natural in their character, 
would not be understood beyond the limits of the circle in 

1 Sicard, "Theorie des Signes pour 1' Instruction des Sourds-muets;' Paris, 1808, 
vol. ii. p. 562, etc. A really possible distinction appears in "lip," "red," aide, p. 16. 


which they are used. These are signs which indicate an object 
hj some accidental peculiarity, and are rather epithets than 
names. My deaf-and-dumb teacher, for instance, was named 
among the children by the action of cutting off the left arm 
with the edge of the right hand ; the reason of this sign was, 
not that there was anything peculiar about his arms, but that 
he came from Spandau, and it so happened that one of the 
children had been at Spandau 3 and had seen there a man with 
one arm ; thence this epithet of " one-armed " came to be ap- 
plied to all Spandauers, and to this one in particular. Again, 
the Royal residence of Charlottenburg was named by taking up 
one's left knee and nursing it> in allusion apparently to the 
late king having been laid up with the gout there. 

In like manner, the children preferred to indicate foreign 
countries by some characteristic epithet, to spelling out their 
names on their fingers. Thus England and Englishmen were 
aptly alluded to by the action of rowing a boat, while the signs 
of chopping off a head and strangling were used to describe 
France and Russia, in allusion to the deaths of Louis XYI. 
and the Emperor Paul, events which seem to have struck the 
deaf-and-dumb children as the most remarkable in the history 
of the two countries. These signs are of much higher interest 
than the grammatical symbols, which can only be kept in use, 
so to speak, by main force, but these, too, never penetrate into 
the general body of the language, and are not even permanent 
in the place where they arise. They die out from one set of 
children to another, and new ones come up in their stead. 

The gesture-language has no grammar, properly so called; 
it knows no inflections of any kind, any more than the Chinese. 
The same sign stands for "walk," "walkest," "walking," 
"walked," "walker." Adjectives and verbs are not easily 
distinguished by the deaf-and-dumb ; " horse-black -handsome- 
trot-canter," would be the rough translation of the signs by 
which a deaf-mute would state that a black handsome horse 
trots and canters. Indeed, our elaborate systems of " parts of 
speech" are but little applicable to the gesture-language, 
though, as will be more fully said in another chapter, it may 
perhaps be possible to trace in spoken language a Dualism, in 


some measure resembling that of the gesture-language, with 
its two constituent parts, the bringing forward objects and 
actions in actual fact, and the mere suggestion of them by imi- 

It has however a syntax, which is worthy of careful ex- 
amination. The syntax of speaking man differs according to 
the language he may learn, " equus niger," " a black horse ; " 
"hominem amo," "j'aime Phomme." But the deaf-mute 
strings together the signs of the various ideas he wishes to 
connect, in what appears to be the natural order in which they 
follow one another in his mind, for it is the same among the 
mutes of different countries, and is wholly independent of the 
syntax which may happen to belong to the language of their 
speaking friends. For instance, their usual construction is not 
u black horse," but " horse black ; M not " bring a black hat/' 
but " hat black bring ; * not " I am hungry, give me bread," 
but " hungry me bread give." The essential independence of 
the gesture-language may indeed be brought very clearly into 
view, by noticing that ordinary educated men, when they first 
begin to learn the language of signs, do not come naturally to 
the use of its proper syntax, but, by arranging their gestures in 
the order of the words they think in, make sentences which 
are unmeaning or misleading to a deaf-mute, unless he can 
reverse the process, by translating the gestures into words, and 
considering what such a written sentence would mean. Going 
once into a deaf-and-dumb school, and setting a boy to write 
words on the black board, I drew in the air the outline of a 
tent, and touched the inner part of my under-lip to indicate 
"red," and the boy wrote accordingly "a red tent." The 
teacher remarked that I did not seem to be quite a beginner 
in the sign-language) or I should have translated my English 
thought verbatim) and put the u red " first. 

The fundamental principle which regulates the order of the 
deaf-mute's signs seems to be that enunciated by Schmalz, 
" that which seems to him the most important he always sets 
before the rest, and that which seems to him superfluous he 
leaves out. For instance, to say, f My father gave me an 
apple/ he makes the sign for ' apple/ then that for ' father/ 


and that for { 1/ without adding that for ' give/ " l The fol- 
lowing remarks, sent to me by Dr. Scott, seem to agree with 
this view. " With regard to the two sentences yon give (I 
struck Tom with a stick, Tom struck me with a stick), the 
sequence in the introduction of the particular parts would, in 
some measure, depend on the part that most attention was 
wished to be drawn towards. If a mere telling of the fact was 
required, my opinion is that it would be arranged so, ' I-Tom- 
struck-a-stick/ and the passive form in a similar manner, with 
the change of Tom first. But these sentences are not gene- 
rally said by the deaf-and-dumb without their having been 
interested in the fact, and then, in coming to tell of them, they 
first give that part they are most anxious to impress upon their 
hearer. Thus if a boy had struck another boy, and the injured 
party came to tell us ; if he was desirous to impress us with 
the idea that a particular boy did it, he would point to the boy 
first. But if he was anxious to draw attention to his own 
suffering, rather than to the person by whom it was caused, he 
would point to himself and make the sign of striking, and then 
point to the boy ; or if he was wishful to draw attention to the 
cause of his suffering, he might sign the striking first, and 
then tell afterwards by whom it was done." 

Dr. Scott is, so far as I know, the only person who has 
attempted to lay down a set of distinct rules for the syntax of 
the gesture -language. 2 u The subject comes before the attri- 
bute, . . . the object before the action." A third construction is 
common, though not necessary, u the modifier after the modi- 
fied." The first construction, by which the horse is put before 
the ' ' black," enables the deaf-mute to make his syntax supply, 
to some extent, the distinction between adjective and sub- 
stantive, which his imitative signs do not themselves express. 
The other two are well exemplified by a remark of the Abbe 
Sicard's. "A pupil, to whom I one day put this question, 
f Who made God ? ' and who replied, ' God made nothing/ 
left me in no doubt as to this kind of inversion, usual to the 
deaf-and-dumb, when I went on to ask him, ( Who made the 
shoe ? ' and he answered, ' The shoe made the shoemaker/ " 3 

1 Schmalz, p. 274. 2 Scott, ■ The Deaf and Dumb,' p. 53. 
3 Sicard, ' Theorie,' p. xxviii. 


So when Laura Bridgman, who was blind as well as deaf-and- 
dumb, had learnt to communicate ideas by spelling words on 
her fingers, she would say " Shut door/' ' ' Give book ; " no 
doubt because she had learnt these sentences whole, but when 
she made sentences for herself, she would go back to the 
natural deaf-and-dumb syntax, and spell out "Laura bread 
give," to ask for bread to be given her, and "water drink 
Laura," to express that she wanted to drink water. 1 

It is to be observed that there is one important part of con- 
struction which Dr. Scott's rules do not touch, namely, the re- 
lative position of the actor and the action, the nominative case 
and the verb. Dr. Schmalz attempts to lay down a partial rule 
for this. " If the deaf-mute connects the sign for an action 
with that for a person, to say that the person did this or that, 
he places, as a general rule, the sign of the action before that 
of the person. For example, to say, u I knitted," he moves 
his hands as in knitting, and then points with his fore-finger to 
his breast. 2 Thus, too, Heinicke remarks that to say, " The 
carpenter struck me on the arm," he would strike himself on 
the arm, and then make the sign of planing, 3 as if to say, " I 
was struck on the arm, the planing-man did it." But though 
these constructions are, no doubt, right enough as they stand, 
the rule of precedence according to importance often reverses 
them. If the deaf-mute wished to throw the emphasis not upon 
the knitting, but upon himself, he would probably point to him- 
self first. Kruse gives the construction of u The ship sails on 
the water" like our own, ' ' ship sail water ;" and of u I must go 
to bed," as " I bed go." 4 

A look of inquiry converts an assertion into a question, and 
fully serves to make the difference between "The master is 
come," and "Is the master come?" The interrogative pro- 
nouns, "who?" "what?" are made by looking or pointing 
about in an inquiring manner ; in fact, by a number of unsuc- 
cessful attempts to say, "he," "that." The deaf-and-dumb 
child's way of asking, "Who has beaten you?" would be, 
"You beaten; who was it?" Though it is possible to render 

1 Steinthal, Spr. der T., p. 923. 

2 Schmalz, pp. 274, 58. 3 Heinicke, p. 56. 4 Kruse, p. 57. 


a great mass of simple statements or questions, almost gesture 
for word, the concretism of thought which belongs to the deaf- 
mute whose mind has not been much developed by the use of 
written language, and even to the educated one when he is 
thinking and uttering his thoughts in his native signs, com- 
monly requires more complex phrases to be re-cast. A ques- 
tion so common amongst us as, "What is the matter with 
you V* would be put, " You crying ? you been beaten ?" and so 
on. The deaf-and-dumb child does not ask, " 'What did you 
have for dinner yesterday ?" but ' ' Did you have soup ? did you 
have porridge?" and so forth. A conjunctive sentence he ex- 
presses by an alternative or contrast ; " I should be punished 
if I were lazy and naughty," would be put, " I lazy, naughty, 
no ! — lazy, naughty, I punished, yes \" Obligation may be 
expressed in a similar way; "I must love and honour my 
teacher," may be put, " teacher, I beat, deceive, scold, no ! — I 
love, honour, yes ! M As Steinthal says in his admirable essay, 
it is only the certainty which speech gives to a man's mind in 
holding fast ideas in all their relations, which brings him to the 
shorter course of expressing only the positive side of the idea, 
and dropping the negative. 1 

What is expressed by the genitive case, or a corresponding 
preposition, may have a distinct sign of holding in the gesture- 
language. The three signs to express " the gardener's knife," 
might be the knife, the garden, and the action of grasping the 
knife, pressing it to his breast, putting it into his pocket, or 
something of the kind. But the mere putting together of the 
possessor and the possessed may answer the purpose, as is well 
shown by the way in which a deaf-and,-dumb man designates 
his wife's daughter's husband and children in making his will 
by signs. The following account is taken from the f Justice of 
the Peace,' October 1, 1864 :— 

John Geale, of Yateley, yeoman, deaf, dumb, and unable 
to read or write, died leaving a will which he had executed by 
putting his mark to it. Probate of this will was refused by 
Sir J. P. Wilde, Judge of the Court of Probate, on the ground 
that there was no sufficient evidence of the testator's under- 
1 Kruse, p. 56, etc. Steinthal, Spr. der T., p. 923. 


standing and assenting to its provisions. At a later date, 
Dr. Spinks renewed the motion upon the following joint affi- 
davit of the widow and the attesting witnesses : — w The signs 
by which deceased informed us that the will was the instrument 
which was to deal with his property upon his death, and that 
his wife was to have all his property after his death in case she 
survived him, were in substance, so far as we are able to de- 
scribe the same in writing, as follows, viz.: — The said John 
Geale first pointed to the said will itself, then he pointed to 
himself, and then he laid the side of his head upon the palm of 
his right hand with his eyes closed, and then lowered his right 
hand towards the ground, the palm of the same hand being up- 
wards. These latter signs were the usual signs by which he 
referred to his own death or the decease of some one else. He 
then touched his trousers pocket (which was the usual sign by 
which he referred to his money), then he looked all round 
and simultaneously raised his arms with a sweeping motion all 
round (which were the usual signs by which he referred to all 
his property or all things). He then pointed to his wife, and 
afterwards touched the ring-finger of his left hand, and then 
placed his right hand across his left arm at the elbow, which 
latter signs were the usual signs by which he referred to his 
wife. The signs by which the said testator informed us that 
his property was to go to his wife's daughter, in case his wife 
died in his lifetime, were ... as follows : — He first referred to his 
property as before, he then touched himself, and pointed to 
the ring-finger of his left hand, and crossed his arm as before 
(which indicated his wife) ; he then laid the side of his head on 
the palm of his right hand (with his eyes closed), which indi- 
cated his wife's death; he then again, after pointing to his 
wife's daughter, who was present when the said will was exe- 
cuted, pointed to the ring-finger of his left hand, and then 
placed his right hand across his left arm at the elbow as before, 
He then put his forefinger to his mouth, and immediately touched 
his breast, and moved his arms in sueh a manner as to indicate 
a child, which were his usual signs^or indicating his wife's 
daughter. He always indicated a female by crossing his arm, 
and a male person by crossing his wrist. The signs by which 


the said testator informed us that his property was to go to 
William Wigg (his wife's daughter's husband), in case his 
wife's daughter died in his lifetime, were ... as follows : — He 
repeated the signs indicating his property and his wife's 
daughter, then laid the side of his head on the palm of his 
right hand with his eyes closed, and lowered his hand towards 
the ground as before (which meant her death) ; he then again 
repeated the signs indicating his wife's daughter, and crossed 
his left arm at the wrist with his right hand, which meant her 
husband, the said William Wigg. He also communicated to 
us by signs, that the said William Wigg resided in London. 
The said William Wigg is in the employ of and superintends 
the goods department of the North- Western Railway Company 
at Camden Town. The signs by which the said testator in- 
formed us that his property was to go to the children of his 
wife's daughter and son-in-law, in case they both died in his 
lifetime, were ... as follows, namely : — He repeated the signs 
indicating the said William Wigg and his wife, and their death 
before him, and then placed his right hand open a short dis- 
tance from the ground, and raised it by degrees, and as if by 
steps, which were his usual signs for pointing out their children, 
and then swept his hand round with a sweeping motion, which 
indicated that they were all to be brought in. The said tes- 
tator always took great notice of the said children, and was 
very fond of them. After the testator had in manner aforesaid 
expressed to us what he intended to do by his said will, the said 
R. T. Dunning, by means of the before-mentioned signs, and 
by other motions and signs by which we were accustomed to 
converse with him, informed the said testator what were the 
contents and effect of the said will. 

" Sir J. P. Wilde granted the motion." 

The deaf-mute commonly expresses past and future time in a 
concrete form, or by implication. To say " I have been ill," 
he may convey the idea of his being ill by looking as though 
he were so, pressing in his cheeks with thumb and finger to 
give himself a lantern-jawed look, putting his hand to his head, 
etc., and he may show that this event was " a day behind," " a 
week behind," that is to say yesterday or a week ago, and so 


he may say that he is going home " a week forward." That 
he would of himself make the abstract past or future, as the 
Abbe Sicard has it, by throwing the hand back or forward, with- 
out specifying any particular period, I am not prepared to 
say. The difficulty may be avoided by signing " my brother 
sick done" for " My brother has been sick," as to imply that 
the sickness is a thing finished and done with. Or the ex- 
pression of face and gesture may often tell what is meant. 
The expression with which the sign for eating dinner is made 
will tell whether the speaker has had his dinner or is going 
to it. When anything pleasant or painful is mentioned by 
signs, the look will commonly convey the distinction between 
remembrance of what is past, and anticipation of what is to 

Though the deaf and dumb has, much as we have, an idea of 
the connection of cause and effect, he has not, I think, any di- 
rect means of distinguishing causation from mere sequence or 
simultaneity, except a way of showing by his manner that two 
events belong to one another, which can hardly be described in 
words, though if he sees further explanation necessary, he has 
no difficulty in giving it. Thus he would express the statement 
that a man died of drinking, by saying that he " died, drank, 
drank, drank." If the inquiry were made, u died, did he ?" he 
could put the causation beyond doubt by answering, " yes, he 
drank, and drank, and drank !" If he wished to say that the 
gardener had poisoned himself, the order of his signs would be, 
" gardener dead, medicine bad drank." 

To "make" is too abstract an idea for the deaf-mute; to 
show that the tailor makes the coat, or that the carpenter 
makes the table, he would represent the tailor sewing the coat, 
and the carpenter sawing and planing the table. Such a pro- 
position as " Rain makes the land fruitful" would not come into 
his way of thinking ; " rain fall, plants grow," would be his 
pictorial expression. 1 

As an example of the structure of the gesture-language, I 
give the words roughly corresponding to the signs by which 
the Lord's Prayer is acted every morning at the Edinburgh In- 
1 Steinthal, Spr. der. T., p. 923. 


stitution. They were carefully written down for me by the 
Director, and I made notes of the signs by which the various 
ideas were expressed in this school. " Father" is represented 
in the prayer as u man old/' though in ordinary matters he is 
generally " the man who shaves himself f* "name" is, as I have 
seen it elsewhere, touching the forehead and imitating the 
action of spelling on the fingers, as to say, " the spelling one is 
known by." To "hallow" is to "speak good of" ("good" 
being expressed by the thumb, while " bad" is represented by 
the little finger, two signs of which the meaning lies in the 
contrast of the larger and more powerful thumb with the 
smaller and less important little finger) . " Kingdom" is shown 
by the sign for " crown f* " will," by placing the hand on the 
stomach, in accordance with the natural and wide-spread 
theory that desire and passion are located there, to which 
theory such expressions belong as " to have no stomach to it." 
" Done " is l{ worked," shown by hands as working. The 
phrase " on earth as it is in heaven " was, I believe, put by 
signs for " on earth " and " in heaven," and then by putting 
out the two fore-fingers side by side, the sign for sameness and 
similarity all the world over, so that the whole would stand, 
" earth on, heaven in, just the same." i( Trespass" is {i doing 
bad;" to " forgive" is to rub out, as from a slate ; " tempta- 
tion" is plucking one by the coat, as to lead him slily into 
mischief. The alternative "but" is made with the two fore- 
fingers, not alongside of one another as in " like," but opposed 
point to point, Sicard's sign for "against." "Deliver" is 
to " pluck out," f ( glory" is " glittering," " for ever*' is shown 
by making the fore-fingers held horizontally turn round and 
round one another. 

The order of the signs is much as follows : — " Father our, 
heaven in — name thy hallowed — kingdom thy come — will thy 
done-dearth on, heaven in, as. Bread give us daily^trespasses 
our forgive us, them trespass against us, forgive, as. Temp- 
tation lead not — but evil deliver from — kingdom power glory 
thine for ever." 

When I write down descriptions in words of the deaf-and- 
dumb signs, they seem bald and weak, but it must be remem- 


bered tliat I can only write down the skeletons of them. To . 
see them is something very different, for these dry bones have 
to be covered with flesh. Not the face only, bnt the whole 
body joins in giving expression to the sign. Nor are the sober, 
restrained looks and gestures to which we are accustomed in 
our daily life sufficient for this. He who talks to the deaf-and- 
dumb in their own language, must throw off the rigid covering 
that the Englishman wears over his face like a tragic mask, 
that never changes its expression while love and hate, joy and 
sorrow, come out from behind it, 

Eeligious service is performed in signs in many deaf-and- 
dumb schools. In the Berlin Institution, the simple Lutheran 
service, a prayer, the gospel for the day, and a sermon, is acted 
every Sunday morning in the gesture-language for the children 
in the school and the deaf-and-dumb inhabitants of the city, 
and it is a very remarkable sight. No one could see the 
parable of the man who left the ninety and nine sheep in the 
wilderness, and went after that which was lost, or of the wo- 
man who lost the one piece of silver, performed in expressive 
pantomime by a master in the art, without acknowledging that 
for telling a simple story and making simple comments on it, 
spoken language stands far behind acting. The spoken narra- 
tive must lose the sudden anxiety of the shepherd when he 
counts his flock and finds a sheep wanting, his hurried penning 
up the rest, his running up hill and down dale, and spying 
backwards and forwards, his face lighting up when he catches 
sight of the missing sheep in the distance, his carrying it home 
in his arms, hugging it as he goes. We hear these stories 
read as though they were lists of generations of antediluvian 
patriarchs. The deaf-and-dumb pantomime calls to mind the 
"action, action, action !" of Demosthenes, 



THE GESTURE r LANGUAGE— (continued). 

There is another department of the gesture-language which 
has reached nearly as high a development as that in use among 
the deaf-mutes. Men who do not know one another's language 
are to each other as though they were dumb. Thus Sophocles 
uses ayXcoo-Q-os, " tongueless/' for "barbarian/' as contrasted 
with " Greek ;" and the Russians,, to this day, call their neigh- 
bours the Germans, f -Njemez/' — that is, speechless, njemou 
meaning dumb. When men who are thus dumb to one 
another have to communicate without an interpreter, they 
adopt all over the world the very same method of communi- 
cation by signs, which is the natural language of the deaf- 

Alexander von Humboldt has left on record, in the following 
passage, his experiences of the gesture-language among the 
Indians of the Orinoco, in districts where it often happens that 
small, isolated tribes speak languages of which even their near- 
est neighbours can hardly understand a word : — " c After you 
leave my mission/ said the good monk of Uruana, 'you will 
travel like mutes.'' This prediction was almost accomplished ; 
and, not to lose all the advantage that is to be had from inter- 
course even with the most brutalized Indians, we have some- 
times preferred the language of signs. As soon as the native 
sees that you do not care to employ an interpreter, as soon as 
you ask him direct questions, pointing the object out to him, 


he comes out of his habitual apathy, and displays a rare intel- 
ligence in making himself understood. He varies his signs, 
pronounces his words slowly, and repeats them without being 
asked. His amour-propre seems flattered by the consequence 
you accord to him by letting him instruct you. This facility of 
making himself understood is above all remarkable in the inde- 
pendent Indian, and in the Christian missions I should recom- 
mend the traveller to address himself in preference to those of 
the natives who have been but lately reduced, or who go back 
from time to time to the forest to enjoy their ancient liberty." 1 
It is well known that the Indians of North America, whose 
nomade habits and immense variety of languages must continu- 
ally make it needful for them to communicate with tribes whose 
language they cannot speak, carry the gesture-language to a 
high degree of perfection, and the same signs serve as a me- 
dium of converse from Hudson's Bay to the Gulf of Mexico. 
Several writers make mention of this t{ Indian pantomime/' 
and it has been carefully described in the account of Major 
Long's expedition, and more recently by Captain Burton. 2 The 
latter traveller considers it to be a mixture of natural and con- 
ventional signs, but so far as I can judge from the one hundred 
and fifty or so which he describes, and those I find mentioned 
elsewhere, I do not believe that there is a really arbitrary sign 
among them. There are only about half-a-dozen of which the 
meaning is not at once evident, and even these appear on close 
inspection to be natural signs, perhaps a little abbreviated or 
conventionalized. I am sure that a skilled deaf-and-dumb 
talker would understand an Indian interpreter, and be himself 
understood at first sight, with scarcely any difficulty. The 
Indian pantomime and the gesture-language of the deaf-and- 
dumb are but different dialects of the same language of nature. 
Burton says that an interpreter who knows all the signs is pre- 
ferred by the whites even to a good speaker. "A story is 

1 Humboldt and Bonpland, 'Voyage;' Paris, 1811, etc. vol. ii. p. 278. 

2 Edwin James, Major Stephen H. Long's Exped. Kocky Moun. ; Philadelphia, 
1823, i. p. 378, etc. Capt. R. F. Burton, ' The City of the Saints,' London, 1861, 
p. 150, etc. See also Prinz Maximilian von Wied-Neuwied, • Voyage dans l'lnte- 
rieur de l'Amerique du Nord ;' Paris, 1840-3, vol. hi. p. 389, etc. 



told of a man, who, being sent among the Cheyennes to qualify 
himself for interpreting, returned in a week and proved his 
competence : all that he did, however, was to go through the 
usual pantomime with a running accompaniment of grunts." 

In the Indian pantomime, actions and objects are expressed 
very much as a deaf-mute would show them. The action of 
beckoning towards oneself represents to " come f* darting the 
two first fingers from the eyes is to " see ;" describing in the 
air the form of the pipe and the curling smoke is to " smoke ; M 
thrusting the hand under the clothing of the left breast is to 
"hide, put away, keep secret." " Enough to eat" is shown by 
an imitation of eating, and the forefingers and thumb form- 
ing a C, with the points towards the body, are raised upward 
as far as the neck j ts fear," by putting the hands to the lower 
ribs, and showing how the heart flutters and seems to rise to 
the throat ; " book," by holding the palms together before the 
face, opening and reading, quite in deaf-and-dumb fashion, and 
as the Moslems often do while they are reciting prayers and 
chapters of the Koran. 

One of our accounts says that M fire " is represented by the 
Indian by blowing it and warming his hands at it ; the other 
that flames are imitated with the fingers. The latter sign was in 
use at Berlin, but I noticed that the children in another school 
did not understand it till the sign of blowing was added. The 
Indian and the deaf-mute indicate " rain " by the same sign, 
bringing the tips of the fingers of the partly-closed hand down- 
ward, like rain falling from the clouds, and the Indian makes 
the same sign do duty for ' ( year," oounting years by annual 
rains. The Indian indicates " stone," if light, by picking it 
up, if heavy, by dropping it. The deaf-mute taps his teeth 
with his finger-nail to show that it is something hard, and then 
makes the gesture of flinging it. The Indian sign for mount- 
ing a horse is to make a pair of legs of the two first fingers 
of the right hand, and to straddle them across the left fore- 
finger ; a similar sign among the deaf-and-dumb means to 

Among the Indians the sign for "brother" or "sister" is, 
according to Burton, to put the two first finger-tips (that is, I 


suppose, the fore-fingers of both hands) into the mouth, to show- 
that both fed from the same breast ; the deaf-mute makes the 
mere sign of likeness or equality suffice, holding out the fore- 
fingers, of both hands close together, a sign which, according to 
James, also does duty to indicate " husband M or " companion." 
This sign of the two fore-fingers is understood everywhere, and 
some very curious instances of its use in remote parts of the 
world are given by Marsh 1 in illustration of Fluellen's " But 
'tis all one, 'tis so like as my fingers is to my fingers." It be- 
longs, too, to the sign-language of the Cistercian monks. 

Animals are represented in the Indian pantomime very much 
as the deaf-and-dumb would represent them, by signs charac- 
terizing their peculiar ears, horns, etc., and their movements. 
Thus the sign for " stag" among the deaf-and-dumb, namely, 
the thumbs to both temples, and the fingers widely spread out, 
is almost identical with the Indian gesture. For the dog, how- 
ever, the Indians have a remarkable sign, which consists in 
trailing the two first fingers of the right hand, as if they were 
poles dragged along the ground. Before the Indians had 
horses, the dogs were trained to drag the lodge-poles on the march 
in this way, and in Catlin's time the work was in several tribes 
divided between the dogs and the horses ; but it appears that 
in tribes Where the trailing is now done by horses only, the 
sign for " dog" derived from the old custom is still kept up. 

One of the Indian signs is curious as having reflected itself in 
the spoken language of the country. " Water " is represented 
by an imitation of scooping up water with the hand and drink- 
ing out of it, and " river " by making this sign, and then wav- 
ing the palms of the hands outward, to denote an extended 
surface. It is evident that the first part of the sign is translated 
in the western Americanism which speaks of a river as a 
€l drink," and of the Mississippi, par excellence, as the " Big 
Drink." 2 It need hardly be said that spoken language is full 
of such translations from gestures, as when one is said to wink 
at another's faults, an expression which shows us the act of 

1 Marsh, * Lectures on the English Language ;' London, 1862, p. 486. 

2 J. E. Bartlett, ' Dictionary of Americanisms,' 2nd edit., Boston, 1859, s. v. 
" Drink," 


winking accepted as a gesture-sign, meaning to pretend not to 
see. But the Americanism is interesting as being caught so 
near its source. 

I noted down a few signs from Burton as not self-evident, 
but it will be seen that they are all to be explained. They are, 
" yes," wave the hands straight forward from the face ; " no," 
wave the hand from right to left as if motioning away. These 
signs correspond with the general practice of mankind, to nod 
for "yes," and shake the head for "no." The idea conveyed 
by nodding seems to correspond with the deaf-and-dumb sign 
for u truth," made by moving the finger straightforward from 
the lips, apparently with the sense of " straightforward speak- 
ing," while the finger is moved to one side to express " lie," 
as " sideways speaking." The understanding of nodding and 
shaking the head as signs of assent and denial appears to 
belong to uneducated deaf-and-dumb children, and even to 
those who are only one degree higher than idiots. In a very 
remarkable dissertation on the art of thrusting knowledge into 
the minds of such children, Schmalz assumes that they can 
always make and understand these signs. 1 It is true they may 
have learnt them from the people who take care of them. 

This explanation is, however, somewhat complicated by the 
Indian signs for "truth" and "lie," given by Burton, who 
says that the fore-finger extended from the mouth means to 
" tell truth," "one word;" but two fingers mean to tell lies," 
" double tongue." So to move two fingers before the left 
breast means, "I don't know," that is to say, "I have two 
hearts." I found that deaf-and-dumb children understood this 
Indian sign for " lie " quite as well as their own. 

" Good," wave the hand from the mouth, extending the 
thumb from the index, and closing the other three fingers. 
This is like kissing the hand as a salutation, or what children 
call " blowing a kiss," and it is clearly a natural sign, as it is 
recognized by the deaf-and-dumb language. Dr. James gives 
the Indian sign as waving the hand with the back upward, in 
a horizontal curve outwards, the well-known gesture of bene- 
diction. At Berlin, a gesture like that of patting a child on 
1 Schmalz, pp. 267-277. But see Bastian, vol. i. p. 395. 



the head, accompanied, as of course all these signs are, with 
an approving smile, is in use. Possibly the ideas of stroking 
or patting may lie at the bottom of all these signs of approving 
and blessing. 

H Think," pass the fore-finger sharply across the breast from 
right to left, meaning of course that a thought passes through 
one's heart. 

" Trade, exchange, swop/' cross the fore*fingers of both hands 
before the breast. Thi's sign is also used, Captain Burton says, 
to denote Americans, or indeed any white men, who are ge- 
nerally called by the Indians west of the Rocky Mountains, 
" shwop," from their trading propensities* As given by Burton, 
the sign is hardly intelligible* But Dr. James describes the 
gesture of which this is a sort of abridgement which consists 
in holding up the two fore^fingers, and passing them by each 
other transversely in front of the breast so that they change 
places, and nothing could be clearer than this* 

The sign in the Berlin gesture -language for " day w is made 
by opening out the palms of the hands. I supposed it to be 
an arbitrary and meaningless sign, till I found the Indian sign 
for u this morning " to consist in the same gesture. It refers, 
perhaps, to awaking from sleep, or to the opening out of 
the day. 

As a means of communication, there is no doubt that the 
Indian pantomime is not merely capable of expressing a few -/^ 
simple and ordinary notions, but that, to the uncultured savage, 
with his few and material ideas, it is a very fair substitute for 
his scanty vocabulary. Stansbury mentions a discourse de- 
livered in this way in his presence, which lasted for some hours 
occupied in continuous narration* The only specimen of a 
connected story I have met with is a hunter's simple history 
of his day's sport, as Captain Burton thinks that an Indian 
would render it in signs. The story to be told is as follows : — 
" Early this morning, I mounted my horse, rode off at a gallop, 
traversed a kanyon or ravine, then over a mountain to a plain 
where there was no water, sighted bison, followed them, killed 
three of them, skinned them, packed the flesh upon my pony, 
remounted, and returned home*" The arrangement of the 


signs described is as follows : — " I — this morning — early — 
mounted my horse — galloped — a kanyon — crossed — a moun- 
tain — a plain — drink — no ! — sighted — bison- — killed — three — 
skinned — packed flesh — mounted — hither." There is perhaps 
nothing which would strike a deaf-and-dumb man as pecu- 
liar in the sequence of these signs ; but it would be desirable 
for a real discourse, delivered by an Indian in signs, to be 
taken down, especially if its contents were of a more com- 
plex nature. 

Among the Cistercian monks there exists, or existed, a ges- 
ture-language. As a part of their dismal system of mortifying 
the deeds of the body, they held speech, except in religious 
exercises, to be sinful. But for certain purposes relating to the 
vile material life that they could not quite shake off, communi- 
cation among the brethren was necessary, so the difficulty was 
met by the use of pantomimic signs. Two of their written 
lists or dictionaries are printed in the collected edition of Leib- 
nitz's works, 1 one in Latin, the other in Low German ; they 
are not identical, but appear to be mostly or altogether derived 
from a list drawn up by authority. 

A great part of the Cistercian gesture-signs are either just 
what the deaf-and-dumb would make, or are so natural that 
they would at once understand them. Thus, to make a roof 
with the fingers is '" house ; " to grind the fists together is 
" cornj " to " sing " is indicated by beating time ; to u bathe" 
is to imitate washing the breast with the hollow of the hand ; 
' c candle," or " fire," is shown by holding up the fore-finger 
and blowing it out like a candle ; a " goat " is indicated by 
the fingers hanging from the chin like a beard -> " salt," by 
taking an imaginary pinch and sprinkling it 5 "butter," by 
the action of spreading it in the palm of the hand. The deaf- 
and-dumb sign used at Berlin and other places to indicate 
" time " by drawing the tip of the forefinger up the arm, is in 
the Cistercian list " a year $ " it is Sicard's sign for " long," and 
the idea it conveys is plainly that of " a length " transferred 
from space to time. To u go " is to make the two first fingers 
walk hanging in the air (Hengestu se dahl und rorest se, 
1 Leibnitz, Opera Omnia, ed. Dutens ; Geneva, 1768, vol. vi. part ii., p. 207, etc, 


betekend Gahen), while the universal sign of the two fore- 
fingers stands for u like" (Holstu se even thosamen, dat bete- 
kent like). The sign for "beer " is to put the hand before the 
face and blow into it, as if blowing off the froth (Thustu de 
hand vor dem anschlahe dat du darin pustest, dat bediidt gut 
Bier). Wiping your mouth with the whole hand upwards 
(cum omnibus digitis terge buccam sursum), means a country- 
clown (rusticus). 

To put the fore-finger against the closed lips is " silence," 
but the finger put in the mouth means a " child." These are 
two very natural and distinct signs j but then the finger to the 
lips for " silence " may serve also quite fitly to show that a 
child so represented is an infant, that is, that it cannot speak. 
The confusion of the signs of "childhood" and "silence" 
once led to a curious misunderstanding. The infant Horus, 
god of the dawn, was appropriately represented by 
the Egyptians as a child with his fingers to his lips, 
and his name as written in the hieroglyphics (Fig. 1 ) 
may be read Har-(p)-chrot, u Horus- (the) -son." 1 
The Greeks mistook the meaning of the gesture, 
and (as it seems) Graecizing this name into Harpo- 
crates, adopted him as the god of silence. ^g- 1? 

To conclude, the Cistercian lists contain a number of signs 
which at first sight seem conventional, but yet a meaning may 
be discerned in most or all of them. Thus, it seems foolish to 
make two fingers at the right side of one's nose stand for 
" friend ;" but when we see that placed on the left side, they 
stand for " enemy," it becomes clear that it is the opposition 
of right and left that is meant. So the little finger to the tip 
of the nose means " fool," which seemingly poor sign is ex- 
plained by the fore-finger being put there for u wise man." 
The fact of such a contrast as wise and foolish being made be- 
tween the fore-finger and the little finger, corresponds with the 
use of the thumb and little finger for " good" and " bad" by 
the deaf-and-dumb, and makes it likely that both pairs of signs 

1 Coptic Tchroti (ni) = lilii, liberi, hroti = cognatus, filius. Old Eg. in Rosetta Ins. 
Compare S. Sharpe, Hist, of Egypt, 4th ed. vol. ii. p. 148. Wilkinson, * Popular 
Account of the Ancient Egyptians ;' London, 1854, vol. ii. p. 182. 



may be natural, and independent of one another. The sign of 
grasping the nose with the crooked fore-finger for "wine/' 
suggests that the thought of a jolly red nose was present even 
in so unlikely a place. The sign for " the devil/' gripping one's 
chin with all five fingers, shows the enemy seizing a victim, 
and compares curiously with a passage in an Indian tale, where 
it is not an evil demon, but Old Age in person, who comes to 
claim his own. " In time then, when I had grown grey with 
years, Old Age took me by the chin, and in his love to me said 
kindly, ' My son, what doest thou yet in the house?' " l 

There is yet another development of the gesture-language to 
be noticed, the stage performances of the professional mimics 
of Greece and Rome, the Pantomime par excellence. To judge 
by two welUknown anecdotes, the old mimes had brought 
their art to great perfection. Macrobius says it was a well- 
known fact that Cicero used to try with Roscius the actor 
which of them could express a sentiment in the greater variety 
of ways, the player by mimicry or the orator by speech, and 
that these experiments gave Roscius such confidence in his 
art, that he wrote a book comparing oratory with acting. 2 
Lucian tells a story of a certain barbarian prince of Pontus, 
who was at Nero's court, and saw a pantomime perform so 
well, that, though he could not understand the songs which 
the player was accompanying with his gestures, he could fol- 
low the performance from the acting alone. When Nero after- 
wards asked the prince to choose what he would have for a 
present, he begged to have the player given to him, saying 
that it was difficult to get interpreters to communicate with 
some of the tribes in his neighbourhood who spoke different 
languages, but that this man would answer the purpose per- 
fectly. 3 

It would seem from these stories that the ancient panto- 
mimes generally used gestures so natural that their meaning 
was self-evident, but a remark of St. Augustine's intimates that 

1 ' Mahrchensammlung des Somadeva Bhatta' (trans, by Dr. H. Brockhaus) ; 
Leipzig, 1843, ii. p. 96. 

2 Macrob. Saturn, lib. ii. c. x* 3 Lucian. De Saltatione, 64. 


signs understood only by regular playgoers were also used. 
" For all those things which are valid among men, because it 
pleases them to agree that they shall be so, are human insti- 
tutions. ... So if the signs which mimes make in their per- 
formances had their meaning from nature, and not from the 
agreement and ordinance of men, the crier in old times would 
not have given out to the Carthaginians at the play what 
the actor meant to express, a thing still remembered by many 
old men by whom we use to hear it said; which is readily 
to be believed, seeing that even now, if any one who is not 
learned in such follies goes into the theatre, unless some one 
else tells him what the signs mean, he can make nothing of 
them. All men, indeed, desire a certain likeness in sign-making, 
that the signs should be as like as may be to that which is 
signified ; but seeing that things may be like one another in 
many ways, such signs are not constant among men, unless 
by common consent." 1 

Knowing what we do of mimic performances from other 
sources, we can, I think, only understand by this that natural 
gestures were very commonly conventionalized and abridged 
to save time and trouble, and not that arbitrary signs were 
used; and such abridgments, like the simplified sign for 
trading or swopping among the Indians, as well as the whole 
class of epithets and allusions which would grow up among 
mimics addressing their regular set of playgoers, would not 
be intelligible to a stranger. Christians, of course, did not 
frequent such performances in St. Augustine's time, but looked 
upon them as utterly abominable and devilish; nor can we 
accuse them of want of charity for this, when we consider the 
class of scenes that Were commonly chosen for representation. 

There seem to have been written lists of signs used to learn 
from, which are now lost. 2 The mimic, it should be observed, 
had not the same difficulties to contend with as an Indian in- 
terpreter. In the first place, the stories represented were 
generally mythological, very usually love-passages of the gods 
and heroes, with which the whole audience was perfectly fami- 

1 Aug. Doct. Chr. ii, 25. 

2 Grysar, in Erseh and Gruber, art. " Pantomimische Kunst der Alien." 


liar; and, moreover, appropriate words were commonly sung 
while the mimic acted, so that he could apply all his skill to 
.giving artistic illustrations of the tale as it went on. The pan- 
tomimic performances of Southern Europe may be taken as 
representing in some degree the ancient art, but it is likely 
that the mimicry in the modern ballet and the Eastern pan- 
tomimic plays falls much below the classical standard of 

I have now noticed what I venture to call the principal 
dialects of the gesture -language. It is fit, however, that, 
gesture- signs having been spoken of as forming a complete 
and independent language by themselves, something should 
be said of their use as an accompaniment to spoken language. 
We in England make comparatively little use of these signs, 
but they have been and are in use in all quarters of the world 
as highly important aids to conversation. Thus, Captain Cook 
says of the Tahitians, after mentioning their habit of counting 
upon their fingers, that " in other instances, we observed that, 
when they were conversing with each other, they joined signs 
to their words, which were so expressive that a stranger might 
easily apprehend their meaning;" 1 and Charlevoix describes, 
in almost the same words, the expressive pantomime with 
which an Indian orator accompanied his discourse. 2 

Gesticulation goes along with speech, to explain and em- 
phasize it, among all mankind. Savage and half - civilized 
races accompany their talk with expressive pantomime much 
more than nations of higher culture. The continual gesticu- 
lation of Hindoos, Arabs, Neapolitans, as contrasted with the 
more northern nations of Europe, strikes every traveller who 
sees them. But we cannot lay down a rule that gesticulation 
decreases as civilization advances, and say, for instance, that a 
Southern Frenchman, because his talk is illustrated with ges- 
tures, as a book with pictures, is less civilized than a German 
or an Euglishman. 

We English are perhaps poorer in the gesture-language than 
any other people in the world. We use a form of words to 

1 Cook, First Voyage, in Hawke3worth's Voyages ; London, 1773, vol. ii. p. 228. 

2 Charlevoix, vol. i. p. 413. 


denote what a gesture or a tone would express. Perhaps it is 
because we read and write so much, and have come to think 
and talk as we should write, and so let fall those aids to speech 
which cannot be carried into the written language. 

The few gesture-signs which are in common use among our- 
selves are by no means unworthy of examination ; but we have 
lived for so many centuries in a highly artificial state of society, 
that some of them cannot be interpreted with any certainty, 
and the most that we can do is to make a good guess at their 
original meaning. Some, it is true, such as beckoning or mo- 
tioning away with the hand, shaking the fist, etc., carry their 
explanation with them ; and others may be plausibly explained 
by a comparison with analogous signs used by speaking men 
in other parts of the world, and by the deaf-and-dumb. Thus, 
the sign of " snapping one's fingers n is not very intelligible as 
we generally see it ; but when we notice that the same sign 
made quite gently, as if rolling some tiny object away between 
the finger and thumb, or the sign of flipping it away with the 
thumb-nail and fore-finger, are usual and well-understood deaf- 
and-dumb gestures, denoting anything tiny, insignificant, con- 
temptible, it seems as though we had exaggerated and con- 
ventionalized a perfectly natural action so as to lose sight of 
its original meaning. There is a curious mention of this ges- 
ture by Strabo. At Anchiale, he writes, Aristobulus says there 
is a monument to Sardanapalus, and a stone statue of him as if 
snapping his fingers, and this inscription in Assyrian letters : — 
" Sardanapallus, the son of Anacyndaraxes, built in one day 
Anchiale and Tarsus. Eat, drink, play ; the rest is not worth 
that!" 1 

Shaking hands is not a custom which belongs naturally to 
all mankind, and we may sometimes trace its introduction into 
countries where it was before unknown. The Fijians, for in- 
stance, who used to salute by smelling or sniffing at one 
another, have learnt to shake hands from the missionaries. 3 
The Wa-nika, near Mombaz, grasp hands ; but they use the 

1 Strabo, xiv. 5, 9. 

2 Rev. Thos. Williams, c Fiji and the Fijians,' 2nd ed. ; London, 1860, vol. i. 
p. 153. 


Moslem variety of the gesture, which is to press the thumbs 
against one another as well/ and this makes it all but certain 
that the practice is one of the many effects of Moslem influence 
in East Africa. 

It is commonly thought that the Ked Indians adopted the 
custom of shaking hands from the white men. 2 This may be 
true; but there is reason to suppose that the expression of 
alliance or friendship by clasping hands was already familiar to 
them, so that they would readily adopt it as a form of saluta- 
tion, if they had not used it so before the arrival of the Euro- 
peans. More than a century ago, Charlevoix noticed in the 
Indian picture-writing the expression of alliance by the figure 
of two men holding each other by one hand, while each grasped 
a calumet in the other hand. 3 In one of the Indian pictures 
given by Schoolcraft, close affection is represented by two 
bodies united by a single arm (see Fig. 6) ; and in a pictorial 
message sent from an Indian tribe to the President of the 
United States, an eagle, which represents a chief, is holding 
out a hand to the President, who also holds out a hand. 4 The 
last of these pictured signs may be perhaps ascribed to Euro- 
pean influence, but hardly the first two. 

We could scarcely find a better illustration of the meaning 
of the gesture of joining hands than in its use as a sign of the 
marriage contract. One of the ceremonies of a Moslem wed- 
ding consists in the bridegroom and the bride's proxy sitting 
upon the ground, face to face, with one knee on the ground, 
and grasping each other's right hands, raising the thumbs and 
pressing them against each other, 5 or in the almost identical 
ceremony in the Pacific Islands, in which the bride and bride- 
groom are placed on a large white cloth, spread on the pave- 
ment of a marae, and join hands, 6 This as evidently means that 

1 Krapf, ' Travels, etc., in East Afrioa ; ' Loudon, 1860, p. 138. 

2 H. R. Schoolcraft, ■ Historical and Statistical Information respecting the 
History, etc., of the Indian Tribes of the U. S, ; ' Philadelphia, 1851 , etc., part 
iii. pp. 212, 244, Burton, ' City of the Saints,' p. 144. But see also Schoolcraft, 
part iii. p. 263, 

3 Charlevoix, vol. v. p. 440. 4 Schoolcraft, part i. pp. 403, 418. 
« E. W. Lane, ' Modern Egyptians ; ' London, 1837, vol i. p. 219. 

6 Rev. W. Ellis, ■ Polynesian Researches ; ' London, 1830, vol. ii. p. 569. 


the man and wife are joined together, as the corresponding 
ceremony in the ancient Mexican and the modern Hindoo 
wedding, in which the clothes of the parties are tied together 
in a knot. Among onr own Aryan race, the taking hands was 
a usual ceremony in marriage in the Vedic period. 1 The idea 
which shaking hands was originally intended to convey, was 
clearly that of fastening together in peace and friendship ; and 
the same thought appears in the probable etymology of peace, 
pax, Sanskrit pag, to bind, and in league from ligare. 

Cowering or crouching is so natural an expression of fear or 
inability to resist, that it belongs to the brutes as well as to 
man. Among ourselves this natural sign of submission is 
generally used in the modified forms of bowing and kneeling ; 
but the analogous gestures found in different countries not 
only give us the intermediate stages between an actual prostra- 
tion and a slight bow, but also a set of gestures and cere- 
monies which are merely suggestive of a prostration which is 
not actually performed. The extreme act of lying with the 
face in the dust is not only usual in China, Siaru, etc., but 
even in Siberia the peasant grovels on the ground and kisses 
the dust before a man of rank. The Arab only suggests such 
a humiliation by bending his hand to the ground and then 
putting it to his lips and forehead,-^— a gesture almost identical 
with that of the ancient Mexican, who touched the ground with 
his right hand and put it to his mouth, 2 Captain Cook de- 
scribes the way of doing reverence to chiefs in the Tonga Is- 
lands, which was in this wise ; — When a subject approached to 
do homage, the chief had to hold up his foot behind, as a horse 
does, and the subject touched the sole with his fingers, thus 
placing himself, as it were, under the sole of his lord's foot. 
Every one seemed to have the right of doing reverence in this 
way when he pleased ; and chiefs got so tired of holding up 
their feet to be touched, that they would make their escape at 
the very sight of a loyal subject. 3 Other developments of the 
idea are found in the objection made to a Polynesian chief 

1 Ad. Pictet, ' Origines IndorEuropeennes ; ' Paris, 1859-63, part ii. p. 336. 

2 A. v. Humboldt, 'Yues des Cordilleres ; ' Paris, 1810, p. 83. 

3 Cook, Third Voyage, 2nd ed. ; London, 1785, vol. i. pp, 267, 409. 


going down into the ship's cabin/ and to images of Buddha 
being kept there 2 in Siam, namely, that they were insulted by 
the sailors walking over their heads, and in the custom, also 
among the Tongans, of sitting down when a chief passed. 3 
The ancient Egyptian may be seen in the sculptures abbreviat- 
ing the gesture of touching the ground by merely putting one 
hand down to his knee in bowing before a superior. A slight 
inclination of the body indicates submission or reverence, and 
becomes at last a mere act of politeness, not involving any 
sense of inferiority at all. This is brought about by that 
common habit of civilized man, of pretending to a humility 
that he does not feel, which leads the Chinese to allude to 
himself in conversation as "the blockhead " or "the thief," 
and makes our own high official personages write themselves, 
Sir, your most obedient humble servant, to persons whom they 
really consider their inferiors. 

With regard to the position of the hands in prayer, there 
seems to have been a confusion of two gestures quite distinct 
in their origin. The upturned hands seem to expect some de- 
sired object to be thrown down, while when clasped or set to- 
gether they seem to ward off an impending blow. It is not 
unnatural that mercy or protection should be looked upon as a 
gift, and that the rustic Phidyle should hold out her supine 
hands to ask that her vines should not feel the pestilent south- 
west wind ; but the conventionalizing process is carried much 
further when the hands clasped or with the finger-tips set to- 
gether can be used, not only to avert an injury, as seems their 
natural office, but also to ask for a benefit which they cannot 
even catch hold of when it comes. 

It is easy enough to give a plausible reason for the custom 
of taking off the hat as an expression of reverence or polite- 
ness, by referring it to times when armour was generally worn. 
To take off the helmet would be equivalent to disarming, and 
would indicate, in the most practical manner, either submission 
or peace. The practice of laying aside arms on entering a 
house appears in a quotation from the 'Boke of Curtayse/ 

1 Cook, Third Voyage, vol. i. p. 265. 

2 Sir J. Bpwring, ' Siam;' London, 1857, vol. i. p. 125. * Cook, ib. p. 409. 


which shows that in the middle ages visitors were expected to 
leave their weapons with the porter at the outer gate, and when 
they came to the hall door to take off hoods and gloves. 

" When thou come tho hall dor to, 
Do of thy hode, thy gloves also." 1 

That women are not required to uncover their heads in church 
or on a visit, is quite consistent with such an origin of the 
custom, as their head-dresses were not armour; and the same 
consistency may be observed in the practice of ladies keeping 
the glove on in shaking hands, while men very commonly re- 
move it. When a knight's glove was a steel gauntlet, such a 
distinction would be reasonable enough. 

This may indeed be fanciful. The practice of women having 
the head covered in church belongs to the earliest period of 
Christianity, and the reasons for adopting it were clearly speci- 
fied. And the usage of men praying with the head uncovered, 
may have been an intentional reversal of the practice of cover- 
ing the head in offering sacrifice among the Romans, and by 
the Jews in their prayers then and now. It does not seem to 
have been universal, and is even now not followed in the Cop- 
tic and Abyssinian churches, in which the Semitic custom of 
uncovering not the head but the feet is still kept up. This 
latter ceremony is of high antiquity, and may be plausibly ex- 
plained as having been done at first merely for cleanliness, as 
it is now among the Moslems in their baths and houses, as 
well as in their mosques, that the ground may not be defiled. 

There are, moreover, a number of practices found in different 
parts of the world, which throw doubt on these off-hand ex- 
planations of the customs of uncovering the head and feet, and 
would almost lead us to include both, as particular cases of a 
general class of reverential uncoverings of the body. Saul 
strips off his clothes to prophesy, and lies down so all that day 
and night. 2 Tertullian speaks against the practice of pray- 
ing with cloaks laid aside, as the heathen do. 3 There was a 
well-known custom in Tahiti, of uncovering the body down to 
the waist in honour of gods or chiefs, and even in the neigh- 

1 Wright, ' History of Domestic Manners,' etc. ; London, 1862, p. 141. 

2 1 Sam. xix. 24. 3 Tert., De Oratione, xii. 



bourhood of a temple, and on the sacred ground set apart for 
royalty, with, which may be classed a very odd ceremony, 
which was performed before Captain Cook on his first visit to 
the island. 1 

The regulations concerning the foiv or turban in the Tonga 
Islands are very curious, from their partial resemblance to 
European usages. The turban, Mariner says, may only be 
worn by warriors going to battle, or at sham fights, or at 
night-time by chiefs and nobles, or by the common people 
when at work in the fields or in canoes. On all other occa- 
sions, to wear a head-dress would be disrespectful, for although 
no chief should be present, some god might be at hand unseen. 
If a man were to wear a turban except on these occasions, the 
first person of superior rank who met him would knock him 
down, and perhaps even an equal might do it. Even when 
the turban is allowed to be worn, it must be taken off when a 
superior approaches, unless in actual battle, but a man who is 
not much higher in rank will say, ' ' Toogo ho fow," that is, 
Keep on your turban. 3 

During the administration of the ordeal by poison in Mada- 
gascar, Ellis says that no one is allowed to sit on his long 
robe, nor to wear the cloth round the waist, and females must 
keep their shoulders uncovered. 3 A remarkable statement is 
made by Ibn Batuta, in his account of his journey into the 
Soudan, in the fourteenth century. He mentions as an evil 
thing which he has observed in the conduct of the blacks, that 
women may only come unclothed into the presence of the Sul- 
tan of Melli, and even the Sultan's own daughters must con- 
form to the custom. He notices also, that they threw dust 
and ashes on their heads as a sign of reverence, 4 which makes 
it appear that the stripping was also a mere act of humiliation. 
With regard to the practice of uncovering the feet, when we 

1 Cook, First Toy. H., vol. ii. pp. 125, 153. Ellis, Polyn. Ees., vol. ii. pp. 
171, 352-3. 

2 Mariner, ' Tonga Islands ;' vol. i. p. 158. 

3 Rev. W. Ellis, Hist, of Madagascar ; London, 1838, vol. i. p. 464. 

1 Ibn Batuta, in 'Journal Asiatique,' 4 me Serie, vol. i. p. 221. Waitz, Introd. 
to Anthropology, E. Tr. ed. by J. F. Collingwood ; part i., London, 1863, p. 301. 


find the Damaras, in South Africa, taking off their sandals 
before entering a stranger's house, 1 the idea of connecting 
the practice with the ancient Egyptian custom, or of ascribing 
it to Moslem influence, at once suggests itself, but the taking 
off the sandals as a sign of respect seems to have prevailed in 
Peru. No common Indian, it is said, dared go shod along the 
Street of the Sun, nor might any one, however great a lord he 
might be, enter the houses of the sun with shoes on, and even 
the Inca himself went barefoot into the Temple of the Sun. 2 

In this group of reverential uncoverings, the idea that the 
subject presents himself naked, defenceless, poor, and miser- 
able before his lord, seems to be dramatically expressed, and 
this view is borne out by the practice of stripping, or uncover- 
ing the head and feet, as a sign of mourning, 3 where there can 
hardly be anything but destitution and misery to be expressed. 

The lowest class of salutations, which merely aim at giving 
pleasant bodily sensations, merge into the civilities which we 
see exchanged among the lower animals. Such are patting, 
stroking, kissing, pressing noses, blowing, sniffing, and so 
forth. The often described sign of pleasure or greeting of the 
Indians of North America, by rubbing each other's arms, 
breasts, and stomachs, and their own, 4 is similar to the Central 
African custom, of two men clasping each other's arms with 
both hands, and rubbing them up and down, 8 and that of 
stroking one's own face with another's hand or foot, in Poly- 
nesia ; 6 and the pattings and slappings of the Fuegians belong 
to the same class. Darwin describes the way in which noses 
are pressed in New Zealand, with details which have escaped 
less accurate observers. 7 It is curious that Linnaeus found the 
salutation by touching noses in the Lapland Alps. People did 

1 C. J. Andersson, 'Lake Ngami,' etc., 2nd ed. ; London, 1856, p. 231. 

2 Prescott, History of the Conquest of Peru, 2nd ed. ; London, 1847, toI. i. 
pp. 97, 78. 

3 Micah i. 8. Ezekiel xxiv. 17. Herod, ii. 85. Rev. J. Roberts, ' Oriental 
Illustrations of the Sacred Scriptures,' 2nd ed. ; London, 1844, p. 492, etc. 

4 Charlevoix, vol. iii. p. 16 ; vol. vi. p. 189, etc. 

6 Burton, ' Lake Regions of Central Africa ; ' London, 1860, vol. ii. p. 69. 

6 Cook, Third Toy., vol. i. p. 179. 

7 Darwin, Journal of Res., etc. ; London, 1860, pp. 205, 423. 

E 2 


not kiss, but put noses together. 1 The Andaman Islanders 
salute by blowing into another's hand with a cooing murmur. 2 
Charlevoix speaks of an Indian tribe on the Gulf of Mexico, 
who blew into one another's ears ; 3 and Du Chaillu describes 
himself as having been blown upon in Africa. 4 Natural ex- 
pressions of joy, such as clapping hands in Africa, 5 and jump- 
ing up and down in Tierra del Fuego, 6 are made to do duty as 
signs of friendship or greeting. 

There are a number of well-known gestures which are hard 
to explain. Such are various signs of hatred and contempt, 
such as lolling out the tongue, which is a universal sign, 
though it is not clear why it should be so, biting the thumb, 
making the sign of the stork's bill behind another's back (cico- 
niam facere), and the sign known as " taking a sight," which 
was as common at the time of Rabelais as it is now. 

In modern India, as in ancient Rome, only a part of the 
signs we find described are such as can be set down at once to 
their proper origin. 7 One of the common gestures in India, 
especially, has puzzled many Europeans. This is the way of 
beckoning with the hand to call a person, which looks as 
though it were the reverse of the movement which we use for 
the purpose. I have heard, on native authority, that the appa- 
rent difference consists in the palm being outwards instead ot 
inwards, but a remark made about the natives of the south of 
India by Mr. Roberts, who seems to have been an extremely 
good observer, suggests another explanation : ' ' The way in 
which the people beckon for a person, is to lift up the right 
hand to its extreme height, and then bring it down with a 
sudden sweep to the ground." 8 It is evident that to make a 
sort of abbreviation of this movement, as by doing it from the 
wrist or elbow instead of from the shoulder, would be a natural 

1 Linnaeus, 'Tour iu Lapland ; ' London, 1811, vol. i. p. 315. 

2 Mouat, ' Andaman Islanders ; ' London, 1863, pp. 279-80. 

3 Charlevoix, vol. iii. p. 16. 

4 Du Chaillu, ' Equatorial Africa ; ' London, 1861, pp. 393, 430. 
6 Burton, ' Central Africa,' vol. ii. p. 69. 

6 Wilkes, TJ. S. Exploring Exp. ; London, 1845, vol. i. p. 127. 

7 Plin. xi. 103. Roberts, Oriental Illustr., pp. 87, 90, 285, 293, 461, 475, 491. 
a Id. p. 396. . . 


sign, and yet would be liable to be taken for our gesture of 
motioning away. It is possible that something of this kind 
has led to the following description of the way of beckoning in 
New Zealand : — " In signals for those some way off to come near 
the arm is waved in an exactly opposite direction to that 
adopted by Englishmen for similar purposes, and the natives 
in giving silent assent to anything, elevate the head and chin 
in place of nodding acquiescence." 1 The latter sign of ac- 
quiescence seems as natural as our own, as contrasting with 
the sideways movement of negation. 

Of signs used to avert the evil eye, some are connected with 
the ancient counter-charms, and others are of uncertain mean- 
ing, such as the very common one represented in old Greek and 
Roman amulets, the hand closed all but the fore-finger and 
little finger, which are held out straight. When King Fer- 
dinand I. of Naples used to appear in public, he might be seen 
to put his hand from time to time into his pocket. Those who 
understood his ways knew that he was clenching his fist with 
the thumb struck out between the first and second fingers, to 
avert the effect of a glance of the evil eye that some one in the 
street might have cast on him. 

Enough has now been said to show that gesture-language is 
a natural mode of expression common to mankind in general. 
Moreover, this is true in a different sense to that in which we 
say that spoken language is common to mankind, including 
under the word language many hundreds of mutually unintel- 
ligible tongues, for the gesture -language is essentially one and 
the same in all times and all countries. It is true that the 
signs used in different places, and by different persons, are 
only partially the same ; but it must be remembered that the 
same idea may be expressed in signs in very many ways, and 
that it is not necessary that all should choose the same. How 
the choice of gesture- signs is influenced by education and 
habit of life is well shown by a story told somewhere of a boy, 
himself deaf-and-dumb, who paid a visit to a Deaf and Dumb 
Asylum. When he was gone, the inmates expressed to the 

1 A. S. Thomson, « The Story of New Zealand ; ' London, 1859, vol. i. p. 209. 
See Cook, First Toy. H., vol. ii. p. 311. 


master their disgust at his ways. He talked an ugly language, 
they said ; when he wanted to show that something was black, 
he pointed to his dirty nails. 

The best evidence of the unity of the gesture-language is 
the ease and certainty with which any savage from any country 
can understand and be understood in a deaf-and-dumb school. 
A native of Hawaii is taken to an American Institution, and 
begins at once to talk in signs with the children, and to tell 
about his voyage and the country he came from. A Chinese, 
who had fallen into a state of melancholy from long want of 
society, is quite revived by being taken to the same place, 
where he can talk in gestures to his heart's content. A deaf- 
and-dumb lad named Collins is taken to see some Laplanders, 
who were carried about to be exhibited, and writes thus to 
his fellow-pupils about the Lapland woman : — " Mr. Joseph 
Humphreys told me to speak to her by signs, and she under- 
stood me. When Cunningham was with me, asking Lapland 
woman, and she frowned at him and me. She did not know 
we were deaf*and-dumb, but afterwards she knew that we 
were deaf-and-dumb, then she spoke to us about reindeers and 
elks and smiled at us much." 1 

The study of the gesture-language is not only useful as 
giving us some insight into the workings of the human mind. 
We can only judge what other men's minds are like by ob- 
serving their outward manifestations, and similarity in the 
most direct and simple kind of utterance is good evidence of 
similarity in the mental processes which it communicates to 
the outer world. As, then, the gesture-language appears not 
to be specifically affected by differences in the race or climate 
of those who use it, the shape of their skulls and the colour of 
their skins, its evidence, so far as it goes, bears against the 
supposition that specific differences' are traceable among the 
various races of man, at least in the more elementary processes 
of the mind. 

1 Dr. Orpen, ' The Contrast,' p. 177> 




We know very little about the origin of language, but the 
subject has so great a charm for the human mind that the 
want of evidence has not prevented the growth of theory after 
theory; and all sorts of men, with all sorts of qualifications, 
have solved the problem, each in his own fashion. We may 
read, for instance, Dante's treatise on the vulgar tongue, and 
wonder, not that, as he lived in mediaeval times, his argument 
is but a mediaeval argument, but that in the f Paradiso/ seem- 
ingly on the strength of some quite futile piece of evidence, he 
should have made Adam enunciate a notion which even in this 
nineteenth century has hardly got fairly hold of the popular 
mind, namely, that there is no primitive language of man to 
be found existing on earth. 

" La lingua ch' io parlai fa tutta spenta 

Innanzi che all' ovra inconsumabile 

Fosse la gente di Nembrotte attenta. 
Che nullo affetto mai raziocinabile 

Per lo piacere uman che rinnovella, 

Seguendo '1 cielo, sempre fu durabile. 
Opera naturale e ch' uom favella : 

Ma cosi, o cosi, natura lascia 

Poi fare a voi secondo che v' abbella. 
Pria ch' io scendessi all' infernale ambascia 

EL b* appellava in terra il sommo Bene 

Onde vien la letizia che mi fascia : 
ELI si chiamo poi : e cio conviene : 

Che 1' uso de' mortali e come fronda 

In ramo, che sen va, ed altra viene." 


In Mr. Pollock's translation : — 

" The language, which I spoke, was quite worn out 
Before unto the work impossible 
The race of Nimrod had their labour turned ; 
For no production of the intellect 
Which is renewed at pleasure of mankind, 
Following the sky, was durable for aye. 
It is a natural thing that man should speak ; 
But whether this or that way, nature leaves 
To your election, as it pleases you. 
Ere I descended on the infernal road, 
Upon earth, EL was called the Highest Good, 
From whom the enjoyment flows that me surrounds ; 
And was called ELI after ; as was meet : 
For mortal usages are like a leaf, 
Upon a bough, which goes, and others come." 

Since Dante's time, how many men of genius have set the 
whole power of their minds against the problem, and to how 
little purpose. Steinthal's masterly summary of these specu- 
lations in his ' Origin of Language \ is quite melancholy read- 
ing. It may indeed be brought forward as evidence to prove 
something that matters far more to us than the early history 
of language, that it is of as little use to be a good reasoner 
when there are no facts to reason upon, as it is to be a good 
bricklayer when there are no bricks to build with. 

At the root of the problem of the origin of language lies the 
question, why certain words were originally used to represent 
certain ideas, or mental conditions, or whatever we may call 
them. The word may have been used for the idea because it 
had an evident fitness to be used rather than another word, 
or because some association of ideas, which we cannot now 
trace, may have led to its choice. That the selection of words 
to express ideas was ever purely arbitrary, that is to say, such 
that it would have been consistent with its principle to ex- 
change any two words as we may exchange algebraic symbols, 
or to shake up a number of words in a bag and re-distribute 
them at random among the ideas they represented, is a suppo- 
sition opposed to such knowledge as we have of the formation 
of language. And not in language only, but in the study of 


the whole range of art and belief among mankind, the prin- 
ciple is continually coming more and more clearly into view, 
that man has not only a definite reason, but very commonly an 
assignable one, for everything that he does and believes. 

In the only departments of language of whose origin we 
have any clear notion, as for instance in the class of pure imi- 
tative words such as " cuckoo" "peewit" and the like, the con- 
nection between word and idea is not only real but evident. 
It is true that different imitative words may be used for the 
same sound, as for instance the tick of a clock is called also 
pick in Germany j but both these words have an evident resem- 
blance to the unwriteable sound that a clock really makes. So 
the Tahitian word for the crowing of cocks, aaoa, might be 
brought over as a rival to " cock-a-doodle-doo ! M There is, 
moreover, a class of words of undetermined extent, which seem 
to have been either chosen in some measure with a view to 
the fitness of their sound to represent their sense, or actually 
modified by a reflection of sound into sense. Some such pro- 
cess seems to have made the distinction between to crash, to 
crush, to crunch, and to craunch, and to have differenced to 
flip, to flap, to flop and to flump, out of a common root. Some 
of these words must be looked for in dictionaries of u pro- ,■ 
vincialisms," but they are none the less English for that. In 
pure interjections, such as oh ! ah ! the connection between 
the actual pronunciation and the idea which is to be conveyed 
is perceptible enough, though it is hardly more possible to 
define it than it is to convey in writing their innumerable mo- 
dulations of sound and sense. 

But if there was a living connection between word and idea 
outside the range of these classes of words, it seems dead now. 
We might just as well use " inhabitable " in the French sense 
as in that of modern English. In fact Shakspeare and other 
writers do so, as where Norfolk says in ' Richard the Second/ 

" Even to the frozen ridges of the Alps, 
Or any other ground inhabitable." 

It makes no practical difference to the world at large, that 
our word to " rise " belongs to the same root as Old German 
risan, to fall, French arriser, to let fall, whichever of the two 


meanings may have come first, nor that black, blanc, bleich, to 
bleach, to blacken, Anglo-Saxon blaze, blac = black, &Zac =pale, 
white, come so nearly together in sonnd. It has been plau- 
sibly conjectured that the reversal of the meaning of to ' ' rise " 
may have happened through a preposition being prefixed to 
change the sense, and dropping off again, leaving the word 
with its altered meaning, 1 while if black is related to Ger- 
man blaken, to burn, and has the sense of " charred, burnt to a 
coal," and blanc has that of shining, 3 a common origin may 
possibly be forthcoming for both sets among the family of 
words, which includes blaze, fulgeo, flagro, (frXeyco, <f>\6^, San- 
skrit bhrdg, and so forth. But explanations of this kind have 
no bearing on the practical use of such words by mankind at 
large, who take what is given them and ask no questions. 
Indeed, however much such a notion may vex the souls of 
etymologists, there is a great deal to be said for the view that 
much of the accuracy of our modern languages is due to their 
having so far " lost consciousness M of the derivation of their 
words, which thus become like counters or algebraic symbols, 
good to represent just what they are set down to mean. Ar- 
chaeology is a very interesting and instructive study, but when 
\ it comes to exact argument, it may be that the distinctness 
of our apprehension of what a word means, is not always in- 
creased by a misty recollection hovering about it in our minds, 
that it or its family once meant something else. For such pur- 
poses, what is required is not so much a knowledge of etymo- 
logy, as accurate definition, and the practice of checking words 
by realizing the things and actions they are used to denote. 
It is as bearing on the question of the relation between idea 
and word that the study of the gesture-language is of particu- 
lar interest. We have in it a method of human utterance 
independent of speech, and carried on through a different 
medium, in which, as has been said, the connection between 
idea and sign has hardly ever been broken, or even lost sight 
of for a moment. The gesture-language is in fact a system of 

1 Jacob Grimm, ' Gescbichte der Deutschen Sprache ;' Leipzig, 1848, p. 664. 

2 See J. and W. Grimm, ' Deutsches Worterbuch,' s. tv. black, blaken, blick, 
etc. Diez, Wdrterb., s.v. bianco. 


utterance to which the description of the primseval language 
in the Chinese myth may be applied ; " Suy-jin first gave 
names to plants and animals, and these names were so expres- 
sive, that by the name of a thing it was known what it was." 1 

To speak first of the comparison of gesture-signs with 
words, it has been already observed that the gesture-language 
uses two different processes. It brings objects and actions 
bodily into the conversation, by pointing to them or looking at 
them, and it also suggests by imitation of actions, or by " pic- 
tures in the air," and these two processes may be used sepa- 
rately or combined. This division may be clumsy and in some 
cases inaccurate, but it is the best I have succeeded in making. 
I will now examine more closely the first division, in which 
objects are brought directly before the mind. 

When Mr. Lemuel Gulliver visited the school of languages 
in Lagado, he was made acquainted with a scheme for im- 
proving language by abolishing all words whatsoever. Words 
being only names for things, people were to carry the things 
themselves about, instead of wasting their breath in talking 
about them. The learned adopted the scheme, and sages 
might be seen in the streets bending under their heavy sacks 
of materials for conversation, or unpacking their loads for a 
talk. This was found somewhat troublesome. " But for short 
conversations, a man may carry implements in his pockets, 
and under his arms, enough to supply him ; and in his house, 
he cannot be at a loss. Therefore the room where the com- 
pany meet who practise this art, is full of all things, ready at 
hand, requisite to furnish matter for this kind of artificial 

The traveller records that this plan did not come into ge- 
neral use, owing to the ignorant opposition of the women and 
the common people, who threatened to raise a rebellion if they 
were not allowed to speak with their tongues after the manner 
of their forefathers. But this system of talking by objects is 
in sober earnest an important part of the gesture-language, 
and in its early development among the deaf-and-dumb, per- 
haps the most important. Is there then anything in spoken 
1 Goguet, 'De l'Origine des Lois,' etc. ; Paris, 1758, vol. iii. p. 322. 


language that can be compared with the gestures by which 
this process is performed ? Quintilian incidentally answers the 
question. " As for the hands indeed, without which action 
would be maimed and feeble, one can hardly say how many 
movements they have, when they almost follow the whole stock 
of words j for the other members help the speaker, but they, 
I may almost say, themselves speak." . . . " Do they not in 
'pointing out 'places and persons, fulfil the purpose of adverbs 
and pronouns ? so that in so great a diversity of tongues among 
all peoples and nations this seems to me the common language 
of all mankind ? " — u Manus vero, sine quibus trunca esset 
actio ac debilis, vix dici potest, quot motus habeant, quum 
paene ipsam verborum copiam persequantur ; nam cseterae 
partes loquentem adjuvant, hge, prope est ut dicam, ipsa3 lo- 
quuntur. . . . Non in demonstrandis locis ac personis adverbio- 
rmn atque pronominum obtinent vicem ? ut in tanta per omnes 
gentes nationesque linguge diversitate hie mihi omnium homi- 
num communis sermo videatur." 1 

Where a man stands is to him the centre of the universe, 
and he refers the position of any object to himself, as before or 
behind him, above or below him, and so on ; or he makes his 
fore-linger issue, as it were, as a radius from this imaginary 
centre, and, pointing in any direction into space, says that the 
thing he points out is there. He defines the position of an ob- 
ject somewhat as it is done in Analytical Geometry, using either 
a radius vector, to which the demonstrative pronoun may partly 
be compared, or referring it to three axes, as, in front or be- 
hind, to the right or left, above or below. His body, however, 
not being a point, but a structure of considerable size, he often 
confuses his terms, as when he uses here for some spot only 
comparatively near him, instead of making it come towards 
the same imaginary centre whence there started. He can in 
thought shift his centre of co-ordinates and the position of his 

1 Quint., Inst. Orat., lib. xi. 3, 85, seqq. " Luther f uhrt an das ist mein leib und 
bemerkt dabei folgendes, c das ist ein pronomen und lautet der buchstab a drinnen 
stark und lang, als ware es gesehrieben also, dahas, wie ein schwabisch oder algau- 
wisch daas lautet, und wer es horet, dem ist als stehe ein finger dabei der darauf 
zeige'" (Grimm, D. W., r. v. "der"). 


axes, and imagining himself in the place of another person, or 
even of an inanimate object, can describe the position of him- 
self or anything else with respect to them. Movement and 
direction come before his mind as a real or imaginary going 
from one place to another, and such movement gives him the 
idea of time which the deaf-and-dumb man expresses by draw- 
ing a line with his finger along his arm from one point to 
another, and the speaker by a similar adaptation of prepositions 
or adverbs of place. 

I do not wish to venture below the surface of this difficult 
subject, for an elaborate examination of which I would espe- 
cially refer to the researches of Professor Pott, of Halle. 1 But 
it may be worth while to call attention to an apparent resem- 
blance of two divisions of the root-words of our Aryan lan- 
guages to the two great classes of gesture-signs. Professor Max 
Muller divides the Sanskrit root-forms into two classes, the pre- 
dicative roots, such as to shine, to extend, and so forth ; and the 
demonstrative roots, " a small class of independent radicals, not 
predicative in the usual sense of the word, but simply pointing, 
simply expressive of existence under certain more or less defi- 
nite, local or temporal prescriptions." 2 If we take from among 
the examples given, here, there, this, that, thou, he, as types, we 
have a division of the elements of the Sanskrit language to 
which a division of the signs of the deaf-mute into predicative 
and demonstrative would at least roughly correspond. Many 
centuries ago the Indian grammarians made desperate efforts 
to bring pronouns and verbs, as the Germans say, " under one 
hat." They deduced the demonstrative ta from tan, to stretch, 
and the relative ya from yag, to worship. Unity is pleasant to 
mankind, who are often ready to sacrifice things of more con- 
sequence than etymology for it. But perhaps, after all, the 
world may not have been constructed for the purpose of pro- 
viding for the human mind just what it is pleased to ask for. 
Of course, any full comparison of speech and the gesture- 
language would have to go into the hard problem of the rela- 
tion of prepositions to adverbs and pronouns on the one hand, 

1 Pott, ■ Etymologische Forschungen,' new ed.; Lemgo and Detmold, 1859, etc., 
vol. i. 8 Muller, Lectures, 3rd ed. 5 London, 1862, p. 272. 


and to verb-roots on the other. As to this matter, I can only- 
say that the deaf-mute puts his right fore-finger into the palm 
of his left hand to say "in," takes it out again to say "out/' 
puts his right hand above or below his left to say " above" or 
" below," etc., signs which are merely imitative and sugges- 
tive. But the gestures with which he shows that anything is 
" above me," ' ' behind me," and so on, are of a more direct 
character, and are rather demonstrative than predicative. 

The class of imitative and suggestive signs in the gesture- 
language corresponds in some measure with the Chinese words 
which are neither verbs, substantives, adjectives, nor adverbs, 
but answer the purpose of all of them, as, for instance, ta, 
meaning great, greatness, to make great, to be great, greatly j 1 
or they may be compared with what Sanskrit roots would be 
if they were used as they stand in the dictionaries, without 
any inflections. In the gesture-language there seems no dis- 
tinction between the adjective, the adverb which belongs to it, 
the substantive, and the verb. To say, for instance, " The 
pear is green," the deaf-and-dumb child first eats an imaginary 
pear, and then using the back of the flat left hand as a ground, 
he makes the fingers of the right hand grow up on the edge of 
it like blades of gras. We might translate these signs as 
"pear-grass;" but they have quite as good a right to be 
classed as verbs, for they are signs of eating in a peculiar way, 
and growing. 

It is not necessary to have recourse to Asiatic languages for 
analogies of this kind with the gesture-language. The sub- 
stantive-adjective is common enough in English, and indeed 
in most other languages. In such compounds as chestnut- 
horse, spoon -bill , iron-stone, feather-grass, we have the sub- 
stantive put to express a quality which distinguishes it. Our 
* S own language, which has gone so far towards assimilating 
itself to the Chinese by dropping inflection and making syntax 
do its work, has developed to a great extent a concretism 
which is like that of the Chinese, who makes one word do 
duty for " stick" and to " beat with a stick," or of the deaf- 
mute, whose sign for "butter" or the act of "buttering" is 
1 Endlicher, Chin. Gramm. ; Vienna, ] 845, p. 168. 


the same, the imitation of spreading with his finger on the 
palm of his hand. To butter bread, to cudgel a man, to oil 
machinery, to pepper a dish, and scores of such expressions, 
involve action and instrument in one word, and that word a 
substantive treated as the root or crude form of a verb. Such 
expressions are concretisms, picture -words, gesture- words, as 
much as the deaf-and-dumb man's one sign for " butter" and 
" buttering." To separate these words, and to say that there 
is one butter, a noun, and another butter, a verb, may be con- 
venient for the dictionary ; but to pretend that there is a real 
distinction between the words is a mere grammatical juggle, 
like saying that the noun man has a nominative case man, and 
an objective case which is also man, and much of the rest of 
the curious system of putting new wine into old bottles, and 
stretching the organism of a live language upon a dead frame- 
work, which is commonly taught as English Grammar. 

The reference of substantives to a verb-root in the Aryan 
languages and elsewhere is thoroughly in harmony with the 
spirit of the gesture-language. Thus, the horse is the neigher ; 
stone is what stands, is stable; water is that which waves, 
undulates ; the mouse is the stealer ; an age is what goes on; 
the oar is what makes to go ; the serpent is the creeper ; and 
so on ; that is to say, the etymologies of these words lead us 
back to the actions of neighing, standing, waving, stealing, 
etc. Now, the deaf-and-dumb Kruse tells us that even to the 
mute who has no means of communication but signs, " the 
bird is what flies, the fish what swims, the plant what sprouts 
out of the earth." 1 It may be said that action, and form 
resulting from action, form the staple of that part of the 
gesture-language which occupies itself with suggesting to the 
mind that which it does not bring bodily before it. But, 
though there is so much similarity of principle in the formation 
of gesture- signs and words, there is no general correspondence 
in the particular idea chosen to name an object by in the two 
kinds of utterance. 

In the second place, with regard to the syntax of the 
gesture-language, it is hardly possible to compare it with 

1 Kruse, p. 53. 


that of inflected languages such as Latin, which can alter the 
form of words to express their relation to one another. With 
Chinese and some other languages of Eastern Asia, and with 
English and French, etc., where they have thrown off inflection, 
it may be roughly compared, though all these languages use 
at least grammatical particles which have nothing correspond- 
ing to them in the gesture-language. Now, it is remarkable 
to what an extent Chinese and English agree in doing just 
what the gesture-language does not. Both put the attribute 
before the subject, jpe ma, '" white horse f 9 shing jin, " holy 
man;" both put the action before the object, ngo ta ni, "I 
strike thee," tien sang iu, " heaven destroys me." The fre- 
quent practice of the gesture-language in putting the modifier 
after the modified is opposed both to Chinese and English 
construction, as these examples show; and even where the 
antagonism is not so absolute, and the deaf-mute says in 
signs u boy ball threw," as well as " ball threw boy," there is 
still an important difference. e< It seems," says Steinthal, " that 
the speech of the Chinese hastens toward the conclusion, and 
brings the end prominently forward. In the described position 
of the three relations of speech the more important member 
stands last." 1 A more absolute contradiction of the leading 
principle of the gesture-syntax could hardly have been formu- 
lated in words. 

The theory that the gesture-language was the original lan- 
guage of man, and that speech came afterwards, has been 
already mentioned. We have no foundation to build such a 
vf theory upon, but there are several questions bearing upon the 
matter which are well worth examining. Before doing so, 
however, it will be well to look a little more closely into the 
claim of the gesture-language to be considered as a means of 
utterance independent of speech. 

In the first place, an absolute separation between the two 
things is not to be found within the range of our experience. 
Though the deaf-mute may not speak himself, yet the most of 
what he knows, he only knows by means of speech, for he 

1 Steinthal, { Charakteristik der hauptsachlichsten Typen desSprachbauesj' Ber- 
lin, 1860, p. 114, etc. 


learns from the gestures of his parents and companions what 
they learnt through words. We speak conventionally of the 
uneducated deaf-and-dumb, but every deaf-and-dumb child is 
educated more or less by living among those who speak, and 
this education begins in the cradle. And on the other hand, 
no child attains to speech independently of the gesture-lan- 
guage, for it is in great measure by means of such gestures as 
pointing, nodding, and so forth, that language is first taught. 

In old times, when the mental capacity of the deaf-and-dumb 
was little known, it was thought by the Greeks that they were 
incapable of education, since hearing, the sense of instruction, 
was wanting to them. Quite consistent with this notion is 
the confusion which runs through language between mental 
stupidity, and deafness, dumbness, and even blindness. Sur- 
dus means " deaf," and also " stupid ;" a hollow nut is a deaf- 
nut, taube Nuss ; /ccocfros means dumb, deaf, stupid. u Speech- 
less " (infans, vqirios) being a natural term for a child, in a 
similar way " dumb n (tump, tumb) becomes in Old German a 
common word for young, giddy, thoughtless, till at last " dumb 
and wise n come to mean nothing more than " lads and grown 
men," as where in the tournament many a shock is heard of 
wise and of dumb, and the breaking of the lances sounds up 
towards the sky, 

" Von when und von tumben man horte manegen stoz, 
Da der schefte brechen gein der koehe doz." ' 

Even Kant is to be found committing himself to the opinion, 
so amazing, one would think, to anybody who has ever been 
inside a deaf-and-dumb Institution, that a born mute can never 
attain to more than something analogous to reason (einem 
Analogon der Vernunft) ? 

The evidence of teachers of the deaf-and-dumb goes to 
prove, that in their untaught state, or at least with only such 
small teaching as they get from the signs of their relatives and 
friends, their thought is very limited, but still it is human 
thought, while when they have been regularly instructed and 
taught to read and write, their minds may be developed up to 

1 Nibel. N6t, 37. 

2 Kant, 'Anthropologic ;' Konigsberg, 1798, p. 49. Schmalz, p. 46. 



about the average cultivation of those who have had the power 
of speech from childhood. Even in a low state of education, 
the deaf-mute seems to conceive general ideas, for when he 
invents a sign for anything, he applies it to all other things of 
the same class, and he can also form abstract ideas in a cer- 
tain way, or at least he knows that there is a quality in which 
snow and milk agree, and he can go on adding other white 
things, such as the moon and whitewash, to his list. He can 
form a proposition, for he can make us understand, and we 
can make him understand, that H this man is old, that man 
is young." Nor does he seem incapable of reasoning in some- 
thing like a syllogism, even when he has no means of commu- 
nication but the gesture-language, and certainly as soon as he 
has learnt to read that c ' All men are mortal, John is a man, 
therefore John is mortal," he will show by every means of 
illustration in his power, that he fully comprehends the argu- 

There is detailed evidence on record as to the state of mind 
of the deaf-and-dumb who have had no education but what 
comes with mere living among speaking people. Thus Mas- 
sieu, the Abbe Sicard's celebrated pupil, gave an account of 
what he could remember of his untaught state. He loved his 
father and mother much, and made himself understood by them 
in signs. There were six deaf-and-dumb children in the 
family, three boys and three girls. u I stayed," he said, " at 
my home till I was thirteen years and nine months old, and 
never had any instruction; I had darkness for the letters 
(j'avois tenebres pour les lettres). I expressed my ideas by 
manual signs or gesture. The signs which I used then, to 
express my ideas to my relatives and my brothers and sisters, 
were very different from those of the educated deaf-and-dumb. 
Strangers never understood us when we expressed our ideas 
to them by signs, but the neighbours understood us." He 
noticed oxen, horses, vegetables, houses, and so forth, and 
remembered them when he had seen them. He wanted to 
learn to read and write, and to go to school with the other 
boys and girls, but was not allowed to ; so he went to the 
school and asked by signs to be taught to read and write, but 



the master refused harshly, and turned him out of the school. 
His father made him kneel at prayers with the others, and he 
imitated the joining of their hands and the movement of their 
lips, but thought (as other deaf-and-dumb children have done), 
that they were worshipping the sky. " I knew the numbers," 
he said, "before my instruction, my fingers had taught me 
them. I did not know the figures ; I counted on my fingers, 
and when the number was over ten, I made notches in a piece 
of wood." When he was asked what he used to think people 
were doing when they looked at one another and moved their 
lips, he replied that he thought they were expressing ideas, 
and in answer to the inquiry why he thought so, he said he 
remembered people speaking about him to his father, and then 
his father threatened to have him punished. 1 

Kruse tells a very curious story of an untaught deaf-and- 
dumb boy. He was found by the police wandering about 
Prague, in 1805. He could not make himself understood, and 
they could find out nothing about him, so they sent him to the 
deaf-and-dumb Institution, where he was taught. When he 
had been sufficiently educated to enable him to give accurate 
answers to questions put to him, he gave an account of what 
he remembered of his life previously to his coming to the In- 
stitution. His father, he said, had a mill, and of this mill, the 
furniture of the house, and the country round it, he gave a 
precise description. He gave a circumstantial account of his 
life there, how his mother and sister died, his father married 
again, his step-mother ill-treated him, and he ran away. He 
did not know his own name, nor what the mill was called, but 
he knew it lay away from Prague towards the morning. On 
inquiry being made, the boy's statement was confirmed. The 
police found his home, gave him his name, and secured his 
inheritance for him. 2 

Even Laura Bridgman, who was blind as well as deaf-and- 
dumb, expressed her feelings by the signs we all use, though 
she had never seen them made, and could not tell that the by- 
standers could observe them. She would stamp with delight, 
and shudder at the idea of a cold bath. When astonished, she 
1 Sicard, ' Theorie,' vol. ii. p. G32, etc. 2 Kruse, p. 54. 



would protrude her lips, and hold up her hands with fingers 
wide spread out, and she might be seen " biting her lips with 
an upward contraction of the facial muscles when roguishly lis- 
tening at the account of some ludicrous mishap, precisely as 
lively persons among us would do." While speaking of a 
person, she would point to the spot where he had been sitting 
when she last conversed with him, and where she still believed 
him to be. 1 

Though, however, the deaf-and-dumb prove clearly to us 
that a man may have human thought without being able to 
speak, they by no means prove that he can think without any 
means of physical expression. Their evidence tends the other 
way. We may read with profit an eloquent passage on this 
subject by a German professor, as, transcendental as it is, it is 
put in such clear terms, that we may almost think we under- 
stand it. 

" Herein lies the necessity of utterance, the representation 
of thought. Thought is not even present to the thinker, till 
he has set it forth out of himself. Man, as an individual en- 
dowed with sense and with mind, first attains to thought, and 
at the same time to the comprehension of himself, in setting 
forth out of himself the contents of his mind, and in this his 
free production, he comes to the knowledge of himself, his 
thinking 1 I.' He comes first to himself in uttering himself." 2 

This view is not contradicted, but to some extent supported, 
by what we know of the earliest dawnings of thought among 
the deaf-and-dumb. But we must take the word " utterance " 
in its larger sense, to include not speech alone, as Heyse seems 
to do, but all ways by which man can express his thoughts. 
Man is essentially, what the derivation of his name among our 
Aryan race imports, not " the speaker," but he who thinks, he 
who means. 

The deaf-and-dumb Kruse's opinion as to the development 
of thought among his own class, by and together with gesture- 
signs, has been already quoted ; how the qualities which make 

1 Lieber, On the Yocal Sounds of Laura Bridgman, in Smithsonian Contrib., 
vol. ii. ; Washington, 1851. 

2 Heyse, • System der Sprachwissenschaft ; ' Berlin, 1856, p. 39. 


a distinction to him between one thing and another, become, 
when he imitates objects and actions in the air with hands, 
fingers, and gestures, suitable signs, which serve him as a 
means of fixing ideas in his mind, and recalling them to his 
memory, and that thus he makes himself signs, which, scanty 
and imperfect as they may be, yet serve to open a way for 
thought, and these thoughts and signs develope themselves 
further and further. Very similar is Professor SteinthaPs 
opinion, which, to some extent, agrees with the theory of the 
manifestation of the Ego adopted by Heyse, but gives a larger 
definition to " utterance." Man, ' ( even when he has no per- 
ception of sound, can yet manifest to himself through any other 
sense that which is contained in his sensible certainty, can set 
forth an object out of himself, and separate himself, his Ego, 
as something permanent and universal, from that which is 
transitory and particular, even if he does not at once compre- 
hend this universal something in the form of the Ego." The 
same writer, after asserting that mind and speech are deve- 
loped together ; that the mind does not originally make speech, 
but that it is speech ; that language shapes itself in mind, or 
mind shapes itself in language, goes on to qualify these asser- 
tions. " We recognize the power of language not so much in 
the sound, as in the inward process. But it is as certain that 
this goes forward in the deaf-mute, as it is that he is a human 
being, flesh of human flesh and spirit of infinite spirit. But 
it goes forward in him in a somewhat different form," etc. 1 

Whether the human mind is capable of exercising at all any 
of its peculiarly human functions without any means of utter- 
ance, or not, we shall all admit that it could have gone but 
very little way, could only just have passed the line which 
divides beast from man. All experience concurs to prove, that 
the mental powers and the s*tock of ideas of those human 
beings who have but imperfect means of utterance, are imper- 
fect and scanty in proportion to those means. The manner in 
which we can see such persons accompanying their thought 
with the utterance which is most convenient to them, shows 
to how great a degree thought is " talking to oneself." The 
1 Steinthal, Spr. der T., pp. 907, 909. 


deaf-and-dumb gesticulate as they think. Laura Bridgman's 
fingers worked, making the initial movements for letters of the 
finger-alphabet, not only during her waking thought, but even 
in her dreams. 

Spoken language, though by no means the exclusive medium 
of thought and expression, is undoubtedly the best. In default 
of this, it is only by means of a substitute for it, namely, 
alphabetic writing, that we succeed in giving more than a very 
low development to the minds of the deaf-and-dumb ; and they 
of course connect the idea directly with the written word, not as 
we do, the writing with the sound, and then the sound with the 
idea. When they think in writing, as they often do, the image 
of the written words which correspond to their ideas, must 
rise up before them in the " mind's eye." The Germans, who 
are strong advocates of the system of teaching the deaf-and- 
dumb to articulate, believe that the power of connecting ideas 
with actual or imaginary movements of the organs of speech, 
gives an enormous increase of mental power, which I am how- 
ever inclined to think is a good deal exaggerated. Heinicke 
gives a description of the results of his teaching his pupils to 
articulate, their delight at being able to communicate their 
ideas in this new way, and the increased intelligence which 
appeared in the expression of their faces. As soon, he says, 
as the born-mute is sufficiently taught to enable him to in- 
crease his stock of ideas by the power of naming them, he 
begins to talk aloud in his sleep, and when this happens, it 
shows that the power of thinking in words has taken root. 1 
Heinicke was, however, an enthusiast for his system of teach- 
ing, and in practice, it is I believe generally found, that arti- 
culation does not displace gesture-signs and written language 
as a medium of thought; and certainly, the deaf-and-dumb 
who can speak, very much prefer the sign language for prac- 
tical use among themselves. Instructors of the deaf-and-dumb 
in England and America seem to have generally decided, that 
with ordinary pupils, articulation is not worth the time and 
trouble it costs, and they use it but little. Of course, no one 
doubts that it is desirable that the children should be taught 
1 Heinicke, p. 103, etc. 


to speak, and to read from the lips, especially when the deaf- 
ness is not total ; but the question is, whether it is worth while 
to devote a large proportion of the few years' instruction which 
is given to the poorer pupils, to this object. It is asserted in 
Germany, that a want of the natural use of the lungs promotes 
the tendency to consumption, which is very common among the 
deaf-and-dumb, and that teaching them to articulate tends to 
counteract this. This sounds probable enough, though I do 
not find, even in Schmalz, any sufficient evidence to prove it, 
but at any rate, there is no doubt that the deaf-and-dumb 
should be encouraged to use their lungs in shouting at their 
play, as they naturally do. 

It is quite clear that the loss of the powers of hearing and 
speech is a loss to the mind which no substitute can fully re- 
place. Children who have learnt to speak and afterwards be- 
come deaf, lose the power of thinking in inward language, and 
become to all intents and purposes the same as those who 
could never hear at all, unless great pains are taken to keep 
up and increase their knowledge by other means. H And thus 
even those who become hard of hearing at an age when they 
can already speak a little, by little and little lose all that they 
have learnt. Their voices lose all cheerfulness and euphony, 
every day wipes a word out of the memory, and with it the 
idea of which it was the sign." 1 

Spoken words appear to be, in the minds of the deaf-mutes 
who have been artificially taught to speak, merely combined 
movements of the throat and other vocal organs, and the initial 
movement made by them in calling words to mind has been 
compared to a tickling in the throat. People wanting a sense 
often imagine to themselves a resemblance between it and one 
of the senses which they possess. The old saying of the blind 
man, that he thought scarlet was like the sound of a trumpet, 
is somewhat like a remark made by Kruse, that though he is 
" stock-deaf," he has a bodily feeling of music, and different 
instruments have different effects upon him. Musical tones 
seem to his perception to have much analogy with colours. 
The sound of the trumpet is yellow to him, that of the drum 
1 Schmalz, pp. 2, 32. 


red ; while the music of the organ is green, and of the bass- 
viol blue, and so on. Such comparisons are, indeed, not con- 
fined to those whose senses are incomplete. Language shows 
clearly that men in general have a strong feeling of such ana- 
logies among the impressions of the different senses. Expres- 
sions such as i( schreiend roth," and the use of ' ' loud," as ap- 
plied to colours and patterns, are superficial examples of ana- 
logies which have their roots very deep in the human mind. 

It is a very notable fact bearing upon the problem of the 
Origin of Language, that even born-mutes, who never heard a 
word spoken, do of their own accord and without any teaching 
make vocal sounds more or less articulate, to which they attach 
a definite meaning, and which, when once made, they go on 
using afterwards in the same unvarying sense. Though these 
sounds are often capable of being written down more or less 
accurately with our ordinary alphabets, their effect on those 
who make them can, of course, have nothing to do with the 
sense of hearing, but must consist only in particular ways of 
breathing, combined with particular positions of the vocal 

Teuscher, a deaf-mute, whose mind was developed by educa- 
tion to a remarkable degree, has recorded that, in his unedu- 
cated state, he had already discovered the sounds which were 
inwardly blended with his sensations (innig verschmolzen mit 
meiner Empfindungsweise.) So, as a child, he had affixed a 
special sound to persons he loved, his parents, brothers and 
sisters, to animals, and things for which he had no sign (as 
water) ; and called any person he wished with one unaltered 
voice. 1 Heinicke gives some remarkable evidence, which we 
may, I think, take as given in entire good faith, though the 
reservation should be made, that through his strong par- 
tiality for articulation as a means of educating the deaf-and- 
dumb, he may have given a definiteness to these sounds in 
writing them down which they did not really possess. The 
following are some of his remarks: — "All mutes disco- 
ver words for themselves for different things. Among over 
fifty whom I have partly instructed or been acquainted with, 
1 Steinthal, Spr. der T., p. 917. 


there was not one who had not uttered at least a few spoken 
names, which he had discovered himself, and some were very- 
clear and well defined. I had under my instruction a born 
deaf-mute, nineteen years old, who had previously invented 
many writeable words for things, some three, four, and six 
syllables long/' For instance, he called to eat "mumm," to 
drink " schipp," a child " tutten," a dog " beyer," money 
u patten/' He had a neighbour who was a grocer, and him he 
called " patt" [a name, no doubt, connected with his name for 
money, for buying and selling ( is indicated by the deaf and 
dumb by the action of counting out coin]. The grocer's son 
he called by a simple combination u pattutten." For the two 
first numerals, he had words — 1, " ga;" 2, "schuppatter." In 
his language, " riecke" meant " I will not f* and when they 
wanted to force him to do anything, he would cry " naffet riecke 
Benito." An exclamation which he used was "heschbefa," in 
the sense of God forbid. 1 

Some of these sounds, as " mumm" and " schipp," for eat- 
ing and drinking, and perhaps " beyer," for the dog, are mere 
vocalizations of the movements of the mouth, which the deaf- 
and-dumb make in imitating the actions of eating, drinking, 
and barking, in their gesture-language. Besides, it is a com- 
mon thing for even the untaught deaf-and-dumb to speak and 
understand a few words of the language spoken by their asso- 
ciates. Though they cannot hear them, they imitate the mo- 
tions of the lips and teeth of those who speak, and thus make 
a tolerable imitation of words containing labial and dental let- 
ters, though the gutturals, being made quite out of sight, can 
only be imparted to them by proper teaching, and then only 
with difficulty and imperfectly. It is scarcely necessary to say 
that when the deaf-and-dumb are taught to speak in articulate 
language, this is done merely by developing and systematizing 
the lip-imitation which is natural to them. As instances of the 
power which deaf-mutes have of learning words by sight with- 
out any regular teaching, may be given the cases mentioned 
by Schmalz of children born stone-deaf, who learnt in this 
way to say "papa," "mamma," " muhme" (cousin), " puppe" 
1 Heinicke, p. 137, etc. 


(doll), "bitte" (please). 1 All the sounds in these words are 
such as deaf persons may imitate by sight. 

An extraordinary story of this kind is told by Eschwege, 
who was a scientific traveller of high standing, and upon whom 
the responsibility for the truth of the narrative must rest. The 
scene is laid in a place in the interior of Brazil, where he rested 
on a journey, and his account is as follows : — " I was occupied 
the rest of the day in quail-hunting, and in making philoso- 
phical observations on a deaf-and-dumb idiot negro boy about 
thirteen years old, with water on the brain, and upon whom 
nothing made any impression except the crowing of a cock, 
whose voice he could imitate to the life. Just as people teach 
the deaf-and-dumb to speak, so this beast-man, by observing 
and imitating the movements of the neck and tongue of the 
cock, had in time learnt to crow, and this seemed the only 
pleasure he had beyond the satisfaction of his natural wants. 
He lay most part of the day stark naked on the ground, and 
crowed as if for a wager against the cock." 2 

Returning to the list of words given by Heinicke, it does not 
seem easy to set down any of them as lip -imitations, unless it 
be "heschbefa" " Gott bewahre!" in which befa may be an 
imitation of bewahre. We have, then, left several articulate 
sounds, such as " patten," money, u tutten," child, etc., which 
seem to have been used as real words, but of which it seems 
impossible to say why the dumb lad selected them to bear the 
meanings which he gave them. 

The vocal sounds used by Laura Bridgman are of great 
interest from the fact that, being blind as well as deaf-and- 
dumb, she could not even have imitated words by seeing them 
made. Yet she would utter sounds, as u ho-o-pli-ph " for 
wonder, and a short of chuckling or grunting as an expression 
of satisfaction. When she did not like to be touched, she 
would say, // Her teachers used to restrain her from making 
inarticulate sounds, but she felt a great desire to make them, 
and would sometimes shut herself up and " indulge herself in 
a surfeit of sounds." But this vocal faculty of hers was chiefly 

1 Schmalz, p. 216 a. 

2 Eschwege, 'Brasilien;' Brunswick, 1830, parti, p. 59. 


exercised in giving what may be called name-sounds to per- 
sons whom she knew, and which she would make when the 
persons to whom she had given them came near her, or when 
she wanted to find them, or even when she was thinking of 
them. She had made as many as fifty or sixty of these name- 
sounds, some of which have been written down, as foo, too, pa, 
fift Vtyt t s > ^ u * man y °f them were not capable of being written 
down even approximately. 

Even if Laura's vocal sounds are not classed as real words, 
a distinction between the articulate sounds used by the deaf- 
and-dumb for child, water, eating, and drinking, etc., and the 
words of ordinary language, could not easily be made, whether 
the deaf-mutes invented these sounds or imitated them from 
the lips of others. To go upon the broadest ground, the mere 
fact that teachers can take children who have no means of 
uttering their thoughts but the gesture -language, and teach 
them to articulate words, to recognize them by sight when 
uttered by others, to write them, and to understand them as 
equivalents for their own gestures, is sufficient to bridge over 
the gulf which lies between the gesture-language and, at least, 
a rudimentary form of word-language. These two kinds of 
utterance are capable of being translated with more or less 
exactness into one another-; and it seems more likely than 
not that there may be a similarity between the process by 
which the human mind first uttered itself in speech, and that 
by which the same mind still utters itself in gestures. 

To turn to another subject. We have no evidence of man 
ever having lived in society without the use of spoken language; 
but there are some myths of such races, and, moreover, state- 
ments have been made by modern writers of eminence as to 
an intermediate state between gesture -language and word- 
language, which deserve careful examination. 

In Ethiopia, across the desert, says the geographer Pom- 
ponius Mela, there dwell dumb people, and such as use gestures 
instead of language ; others, whose tongues give no sound ; 
others, who have no tongues (muti populi, et quibus pro eloquio 
nutus est ; alii sine sono linguse ; alii sine Unguis, etc.) ] . Pliny 

1 Mela, iii. 9. 


gives much the same account. Some of these Ethiopian tribes 
are said to have no noses, some no upper lips, some no tongues. 
Some have for their language nods and gestures (quibusdam 
pro sermone nutus motusque membrorum est). 1 

To go thoroughly into the discussion of these stories would 
require an investigation of the whole subject of the legends of 
monstrous tribes; but an .off-hand rationalizing explanation 
may be sufficient here. The frequent use of the gesture-lan- 
guage by savage tribes in intercourse with strangers may com- 
bine with the very common opinion of uneducated men that 
the talk of foreigners is not real speech at all, but a kind of 
inarticulate chirping, barking, or grunting. Moreover, from 
using the words " speechless," " tongueless," with the sense 
of "foreigner," "barbarian," and talking of tribes who have 
no tongue (no lingo, as our sailors would say), to the point- 
blank statement that there are races of men without speech 
and without tongues, is a transition quite in the spirit of 

In modern times we hear little of dumb races, at least from 
I authors worthy of credit ; but we find a number of accounts of 
^ people occupying as it were a halfway house between the 
X^ mythic dumb nations and ourselves, and having a speech so 
imperfect that even if talking of ordinary matters they have 
to eke it out by gestures. To begin in the last century, Lord 
Monboddo says that a certain Dr. Peter Greenhill told him that 
there was a nation east of Cape Palmas in Africa, who could 
not understand one another in the dark, and had to supply the 
wants of their language by gestures. 2 Had Lord Monboddo 
been the only or the principal authority for stories of this class, 
we might have left his half-languaged men to keep company 
with his human apes and tailed men in the regions of my- 
thology ; but in this matter it will be seen that, right or wrong, 
he is in very good company. 

Describing the Puris and Coroados of Brazil, Spix and 
Martius, having remarked that different tribes converse in 

1 Plin. vi. 35. 

2 Lord Monboddo, 'Origin and Progress of Language,' 2nd ed.j Edinburgh, 
1774„ vol i. p. 253. 


signs, and explained the difficulty they found in making them 
understand by signs the objects or ideas for which they wanted 
the native names, go on to say how imperfect and devoid of 
inflexion or construction these languages are. Signs with 
hand or mouth, they say, are required to make them intelli- 
gible. To say, u I will go into the wood," the Indian uses the 
words " wood-go," and points his mouth like a snout in the 
direction he means. 1 Madame Pfeiffer, too, visited the Puris, 
and says that for "to-day," "to-morrow," and "yesterday," 
they have only the word "day;" the rest they express by 
signs. For " to-day " they say " day," and touch themselves 
on the head, or point straight upward ; for " to-morrow " they 
say also "day," pointing forward with the finger; and for y 
"yesterday," again "day," pointing behind them. 2 

Mr. Mercer, describing the low condition of some of the 
Yeddah tribes of Ceylon, stated that not only is their dialect 
incomprehensible to a Singhalese, but that even their commu- 
nications with one another are made by signs, grimaces, and 
guttural sounds, which bear little or no resemblance to distinct 
words or systematized language. 3 

Dr. Milligan, speaking of the language of Tasmania, and the 
rapid variation of its dialects, says " The habit of gesticulation, 
and the use of signs to eke out the meaning of monosyllabic 
expressions, and to give force, precision, and character to 
vocal sounds, exerted a further modifying effect, producing, as 
it did, carelessness and laxity of articulation, and in the appli- 
cation and pronunciation of words." " To defects in orthoepy 
the aborigines added short-comings in syntax, for they ob- 
served no settled order or arrangement of words in the con- 
struction of their sentences, but conveyed in a supplementary 
fashion by tone, manner, and gesture those modifications of 
meaning which we express by mood, tense, number, etc." 4 

We find a similar remark made about a tribe of North 
American Indians, by Captain Burton. " Those natives who, 

1 Spix and Martius, ' Keise in Brasilien ; ' Munich, 1823, etc., vol. i. p. 385, etc. 

2 Ida Pfeiffer, «Eine Frauenfahrt urn die Erde ;' Vienna, 1850, p. 102. 

3 Sir J. Emerson Tennent, 'Ceylon,' 3rd ed. ; London, 1859, vol. ii. p. 441. 

4 Milligan, in Papers and Proc. of Koy. Soc. of Tasmania, 1859 ; vol. iii. 
part ii. 


like the Arapahos, possess a very scanty vocabulary, pro- 
nounced in a quasi-unintelligible way, can hardly converse with 
one another in the dark ; to make a stranger understand them 
If^ they must always repair to the camp-fire for f pow-wow/ *** 

Mr. Schoolcraft, whose opinion on the matter would have 
been valuable, knew of the question, and inserted it in the list 
of inquiries to be answered by Indian agents, etc. Asking 
for information about the language of any tribe, he puts the 
inquiry, No. 345, " Is gesticulation essential to carry out some 
of its meanings ? ,H 

The array of evidence in favour of the existence of tribes 
whose language is incomplete without the help of gesture- 
signs, even for things of ordinary import, is very remarkable. 
The matter is important, ethnologically, for could it be taken as 
proved, that there are really people whose language does not 
suffice to speak of the common subjects of every- day life with- 
out the aid of gesture, the fact would either furnish about the 
strongest case of degeneration known in the history of the 
human race, or would supply a telling argument in favour of 
the theory that the gesture -language is the original utterance 
of mankind, out of which speech has developed itself more or 
less fully among different tribes. But the evidence does not 
in any case give all that would be required to prove the fact. 
Spix and Martius make no claim to having mastered the Puri 
and Coroado languages. The Coroado words for " to-morrow " 
and " the day after to-morrow," viz. herinanta and hind heri- 
nanta, make it unlikely that their neighbours the Puris, who 
are so nearly on the same level of civilization, have no such 
words. (I have not had access to a Puri vocabulary, which 
would probably settle the question.) Mr. Mercer seems to 
have adopted the common view of foreigners about the Ved- 
dahs, but it has happened here, as in many other accounts of 
savage tribes, that closer acquaintance has shown them to 
have been wrongly accused. Mr. Bailey, who has had good 
opportunities of studying them, shows them to be low in cul- 
ture, but by no means exceptionally so, and he contradicts their 
supposed deficiency in language with the remark, u I never 
1 Burton, ' City of the Saints,' p. 151. 2 Schoolcraft, part i. p. 564. 


knew one of them at a loss for words sufficiently intelligible to 
convey his meaning, not to his fellows only, but to the Sin- 
ghalese of the neighbourhood, who are all, more or less, ac- 
quainted with the Veddah patois." 1 Dr. Milligan is, I believe, 
our best authority as to the Tasmanians and their language, 
but he probably had to trust in this matter to native informa- 
tion, which is far from being always safe. 2 Lastly, Captain 
Burton only paid a flying visit to the Western Indians, and his 
interpreters could hardly have given him scientific information 
on such a subject. 

The point in question is one which it is not easy to bring to 
a perfectly distinct issue, seeing that all people, savage and 
civilized, do use signs more or less. As has been remarked 
already, many savage tribes accompany their talk with ges- 
tures to a great extent, and in conversation with foreigners, 
gestures and words are usually mixed to express what is to be 
said. It is extremely likely that Madame Pfeiffer's savages ~J . 
suffered the penalty of being set down as wanting in language, 
for no worse fault than using a combination of words and signs 
in order to make what they meant as clear as possible to her 
comprehension. But the existence of a language incomplete, 
even for ordinary purposes, without the aid of gesture-signs, 
could only be proved by the evidence of an educated man so 
familiar with the language in question, as to be able to say 
from absolute personal knowledge not only what it can, but 
what it cannot do, an amount of acquaintance to which I think 
none of the writers quoted would lay claim. In the case of 
languages spoken by very low races, like the Puris and the 
Tasmanians, the difficulty of deciding such a point must be 
very great. 

There is a point of some practical importance involved in 
the question, whether gestures or words are, so to speak, most / 
natural. If signs form an easier means for the reception and 
expression of ideas than words, then idiots ought to learn to 
understand and use gestures more readily than speech. I 
have only been able to get a distinct answer to the question, 

1 J. Bailey, in Tr. Eth. Soc. ; London, 1863, p. 300. 

2 The objection to trusting native information as to grammatical structure, may 


whether they do so or not, from one competent judge in such 
a matter, Dr. Scott, of Exeter, who assures me that semi- 
idiotic children, to whom there is no hope of teaching more 
than the merest rudiments of speech, are yet capable of re- 
ceiving a considerable amount of knowledge by means of signs, 
and of expressing themselves by them. It is well known that 
a certain class of children are dumb from deficiency of intellect, 
rather than from want of the sense of hearing, and it is to 
these that the observation applies. 1 

The idea of solving the problem of the origin of language 
by actual experiment, must have very often been started. 
There are several stories of such an experiment having been 
tried, the first being Herodotus' s well-known tale of Psamm- 
tichus, King of Egypt, who had the two children brought up 
by a silent keeper, and suckled by goats. The first word they 
said, bekos, meaning bread in the Phrygian language, of course 
proved that the Phrygians were the oldest race of mankind. 
It is a very trite remark that there is nothing absolutely in- 
credible in the story, and that bek, ~bek, is a good imitative 
word for bleating, as in (3\rr%aoiiai, ybi)Kao^ai, bloJcen, meckem, 
etc. But the very name of Psammitichus, who has served as a 
lay-figure for so many tales to be draped upon, is fatal to any 
claim to the historical credibility of such a story. He sounds 
the springs of the Nile with a cord thousands of fathoms long, 
and finds no bottom; he accomplishes the prediction of one 
oracle by pouring a libation out of a brazen helmet, and of 
another, concerning cocks, by leading an army of Carians, with 
crested helmets, against Tementhes, king of Egypt, and he 
figures in the Greek version of the story of Cinderella's slipper. 
It is interesting to see how naturally mythology takes to the 
bekos-legend, and. brings it out in a new place. Miss Good- 
man says, " A Scotch lady staying in the house, informed me 
that one of the early kings of her country, anxious to discover the 

be seen in the difficulty, so constantly met with in investigating the languages of 
rude tribes, of getting a substantive from a native without a personal pronoun 
tacked to it. Thus in Dr. Milligan's vocabulary, the expressions puggan neena, 
noonalmeena, given for " husband " and " father," seem really to mean " your hus- 
band," "my father," or something of the kind. 

1 See W. E. Scott, 'Remarks on the Education of Idiots :' London, 1847. 


primitive language, placed two infants on an uninhabited island 
in the Hebrides, under the care of a dumb old woman," etc. 1 
- The third story is told of the great Mogul, Akbar Khan. 
It is mentioned by Purchas, only twenty years after Akbar's 
death, 2 and told in detail by the Jesuit Father Catrou, as 
follows : — 

M Indeed it may be said that desire of knowledge was Akr 
bar's ruling passion, and his curiosity induced him to try a 
very strange experiment. He wished to ascertain what lan- 
guage children would speak without teaching, a& he had heard 
that Hebrew was the natural language of those who had been 
taught no other. To settle the question, he had twelve 
children at the breast shut up in a castle six leagues from 
Agra, and brought up by twelve dumb nurses. A porter, who 
was dumb also, was put in charge and forbidden on pain of 
death to open the castle door. When the children were 
twelve years old [there is a decided feeling for duodecimals in 
the story], he had them brought before him, and collected in 
his palace men skilled in all languages. A Jew who was at 
Agra was to judge whether the children spoke Hebrew. 
There was no difficulty in finding Arabs and Chaldeans in the 
capital. On the other hand the Indian philosophers asserted 
that the children would speak the Hanscrit 3 language, which 
takes the place of Latin among them, and is only in use 
among the learned, and is learnt in order to understand the 
ancient Indian books of Philosophy and Theology. When how- 
ever the children appeared before the Emperor, every one was 
astonished to find that they did not speak any language at all. 
They had learnt from their nurses to do without any, and they 
merely expressed their thoughts by gestures which answered 
the purpose of words. They were so savage and so shy that 
it was a work of some trouble to tame them and to loosen 
their tongues, which they had scarcely used during their in- 
fancy." 4 

1 Margaret Goodman, ' Experiences of an English Sister of Mercy ;' London, 
1862, p. 51. 

2 Purchas, His Pilgrimes ; London, 1625-6, vol. v. (1626) p. 516. 

3 I. e. Sanskrit, after the Persian form of the word. 

4 Catrou, Hist. Gen. de l'Empire du Mogol ; Paris, 1705, p. 259, etc. 



There may possibly be a foundation of fact for this story, 
which fits very well with what is known of Akbar's unscru- 
pulous character, and his greediness for knowledge. More- 
over it tells in its favour, that had a story-teller invented it, 
he would hardly have brought it to what must have seemed 
to him such a lame and impotent conclusion, as that the 
children spoke no language at all. 




The art of recording events, and sending messages, by means 
of pictures representing the things or actions in question, is 
called Picture-Writing. 

The deaf-and-dumb man's remark, that the gesture-language 
is a picture-language, finds its counterpart in an observation of 
Wilhelm von Humboldt's, that " In fact, gesture, destitute of 
sound, is a species of writing." There is indeed a very close 
relation between these two ways of expressing and communi- 
cating thought. Gesture can set forth thought with far greater 
speed and fulness than picture-writing, but it is* inferior to it 
in having to place the different elements of a sentence in suc- 
cession, in single file, so to speak; while by a picture the 
whole of an event may be set in view at one glance, and that 
permanently, so as to serve as a message to a distant place or 
a record to a future time. But the imitation of visible qua- 
lities as a means of expressing ideas, is common to both me- 
thods, and both belong to similar conditions of the human 
mind. Both are found in very distant countries and times, 
and spring up naturally under favourable circumstances, pro- 
vided that a higher means of supplying the same wants has 
not already occupied the place which they can only fill very 
partially and rudely. 

There being so great a likeness between the conditions 
which cause the use of the gesture-language and of picture- 
writing, it is not surprising to find the natives of North Ame- 




rica as great proficients in the one as in the other. Their 
pictures, as drawn and interpreted by Schoolcraft and other 
writers, give the best information that is to be had of the 
lower development of the art. 1 

Fig. 2 is an Indian 
record on a blazed 
pine-tree (to blaze a 
tree is to wound 
(blesser) its side with 
an axe, so as to mark 
it with a conspicuous 
white patch) . On the 
right are two canoes 
(2 and 4), with a cat- 

Fig. 2. 

fish (1) in one of them, and a fabulous animal, known as the 
copper- tailed bear (3), in the other. On the left are a bear and 
six catfish ; and the sense of the picture is simply that two 
hunters, whose names, or rather totems or clan-names, were 
" Copper-tailed Bear" and " Catfish," went out on a hunting 
expedition in their canoes, and took a bear and six catfish. 


Fig. 3. 

. Fig. 3 is a picture on the face of a rock on the shore of Lake 
Superior, and records an expedition across the lake, which was 
led by Myeengun, or " Wolf," a celebrated Indian chief. The 
canoes with the upright strokes in them represent the force 
of the party in men and boats, and Wolf's chief ally, Kishke- 
munasee, that is, ' ' "Kingfisher," goes in the first canoe. The 

1 Figs. 2 to 7, and their interpretations, are from Schoolcraft, parti 



Fig. 4. 

arch with three circles below it shows that there were three 
suns under heaven, that is, that the voyage took three days. 
The tortoise seems to indicate their getting to land, while the 
representation of the chief himself on horseback shows that the 
expedition took place since the time when horses were intro- 
duced into Canada. 

The Indian grave-posts, 
Fig. 4, tell their story in 
the same childlike manner. 
Upon one is a tortoise, the 
dead warrior's totem, and 
a figure beside it represent- 
ing a headless man, which 
shows he is dead. Be- 
low are his three marks of 
honour. On the other post 
there is no separate sign 
for death, but the chief's totem, a crane, is reversed. Six 
marks of honour are awarded to him on the right, and three 
on the left. The latter represent three important general 
treaties of peace which he had attended; the former would 
seem to stand for six war -parties or battles. The pipe and 
hatchet are symbols of influence in peace and war. 

The great defect of this kind of record is that it can only be 
understood within a very limited circle. It does not tell the 
story at length, as is done in explaining it in words ; but it 
merely suggests some event, of which it only gives such details 
as are required to enable a practised observer to construct a 
complete picture. It may be compared in this respect to the 
elliptical forms of expression which are current in all societies 
whose attention is given specially to some narrow subject of 
interest, and where, as all men's minds have the same frame- 
work set up in them, it is not necessary to go into an elaborate 
description of the whole state of things ; but one or two details 
are enough to enable the hearer to understand the whole. Such 
expressions as ' ' new white at 48," " best selected at 92," 
though perfectly understood in the commercial circles where 
they are current, are as unintelligible to any one who is not 


familiar with, the course of events in those circles, as an Indian 
record of a war-party would be to an ordinary Londoner. 

Though, however, familiarity with the picture-writing of the 
Indians, as well as with their habits and peculiarities, might 
enable the student to make a pretty good guess at the mean- 
ing of such documents as the above, which, are meant to be 
understood by strangers, there is another class of picture- 
writings, used principally by the magicians or medicine-men, 
which cannot be even thus interpreted. The songs and charms 
used among the Indians of North America are repeated or sung 
by memory, but, as an assistance to the singer, pictures are 
painted upon sticks, or pieces of birch-bark or other material, 
which serve to suggest to the mind the successive verses. 
Some of these documents, with the songs to which they refer, 
are given in Schoolcraft, and one or two examples will show 
sufficiently how they are used, and make it evident that they 
can only convey their full meaning to those 
who know by heart already the compositions 
they refer to. They are mere Samson's rid- 
dles, only to be guessed by those who have 
ploughed with his heifer. Thus, a drawing of 
a man with two marks on his breast and four 
on his legs (Fig. 5) is to remind the singer that 
lg " ' at this place comes the following verse : — 

" Two days must you fast, my friend, — 
Four days must you sit still." 

Fig. 6. 

Fig. 6 is the record of a love-song — (1) represents the lover 
in (2) he is singing, and beating a magic drum ; in (3) he sur- 


rounds himself with a secret lodge, denoting the effects of his 
necromancy ; in (4) he and his mistress are shown joined by a 
single arm, to indicate the union of their affections ; in (5) she 
is shown on an island; in (6) she is asleep, and his voice is 
shown, while his magical powers are reaching her heart ; and 
the heart itself is shown in (7). To each of these figures a 
verse of the song corresponds. 

1. It is my painting that makes me a god. 

2. Hear the sounds of my voice, of my song ; it is my voice. 

3. I cover myself in sitting down by her. 

4. I can make her blush, because I hear all she says of me. 

5. "Were she on a distant island, I could make her swim over. 

6. Though she were far off, even on the other hemisphere. 

7. I speak to your heart. 

Kg. 7. 
Fig. 7 is a war- song. The warrior is shown in (1) ; he is 
drawn with wings, to show that he is active and swift of foot. 
In (2) he stands under the morning star ; in (3) he is standing 
under the centre of heaven, with his war- club and rattle; 
in (4) the eagles of carnage are flying round the sky ; in (5) 
he lies slain on the field of battle ; and in (6) he appears as a 
spirit in the sky. The words are th^se : — 

1. I wish to have the body of the swiftest bird. 

2. Every day I look at you ; the half of the day I sing my song. 

3. I throw away my body. 

4. The birds take a flight in the air. 

5. Full happy am I to be numbered with the slain. 

6. The spirits on high repeat my name. 


• Catlin tells how the chief of the Kickapoos, a man of great 
ability, generally known as the tx Shawnee Prophet/' having, 
as was said, learnt the doctrines of Christianity from a mis- 
sionary, taught them to his tribe, pretending to have received 
a supernatural mission. He composed a prayer, which he 
wrote down on aflat stick, "in characters somewhat resem- 
bling Chinese letters." When Catlin visited the tribe, every 
man, woman, and child used to repeat this prayer morning 
and evening, placing the fore-finger under the first character, 
repeating a sentence or two, and so going on to the next, 
till the prayer, which took some ten minutes to repeat, was 
finished. 1 I do not know whether any of these curious prayer- 
sticks are now to be seen, but they were probably made on the 
same principle as the suggestive pictures used for the native 
Indian songs. 

Picture-writing is found among savage races in all quarters 
of the globe, and, so far as we can judge, its principle is the 
same everywhere. The pictures on the Lapland magic drums, 
of which we have interpretations, serve much the same purpose 
as the American writing. Savage paintings, or scratchings, or 
carvings on rocks, have a family likeness, whether we find 
them in North or South America, in Siberia or Australia. The 
interpretation of rock-pictures, which mostly consist of few 
figures, is in general a hopeless task, unless a key is to be had. 
Many are, no doubt, mere pictorial utterances, drawings of 
animals and things without any historical sense; some are 
names, as the totems carved by those who sprang upon the 
dangerous leaping-rock at the Eed Pipestone Quarry. 2 Dupaix 
noticed in Mexico a sculptured eagle, apparently on the 
boundary of Quauhnahuac, " the place near the eagle/' now 
called Cuernavaca, 3 and the fact suggests that rock-sculptures 
may often be, like this, symbolic boundary-marks. But there 
is seldom a key to be had to the reading of rock-sculptures, 
which the natives generally say were done by the people long 

1 Catlin, ' North American Indians,' 7th ed.; London, 1848, vol. ii. p. 98. 

2 Catlin, vol. ii. p. 170. 

3 Lord Kingsborough, * Antiquities of Mexico ;' London, 1830, etc., vol. iv. 
part i., no. 31, and vol. v. Expl. 


ago. I have seen them in Mexico on cliffs where one can 
hardly imagine how the savage sculptors can have climbed. 
When Humboldt asked the Indians of the Oronoko who it 
was that sculptured the figures of animals and symbolic signs 
high up on the face of the crags along the river, they answered 
with a smile, as relating a fact of which only a stranger, a 
white man, could possibly be ignorant, { ' that at the time of the 
great waters their fathers went up to that height in their canoes." 1 

As the gesture -language is substantially the same among 
savage tribes all over the world, and also among children who 
cannot speak, so the picture-writings of savages are not only 
similar to one another, but are like what children make un- 
taught even in civilized countries. Like the universal language 
of gestures, the art of picture-writing tends to prove that the 
mind of the uncultured man works in much the same way at 
all times and everywhere. As an example of the way in which 
it is possible for an observer who has never realized this fact 
to be led astray by such a general resemblance, the celebrated 
" Livre des Sauvages " may be adduced. 

This book of pictures had been lying for many years in a 
Paris library, before the Abbe Domenech unearthed it and 
published it in facsimile, as a native American document of 
high ethnological value. It contains a number of rude drawings 
done in black lead and red chalk, in great part enormously in- 
decent, though perhaps not so much with the grossness of the 
savage as of the European blackguard. Many of the drawings 
represent Scripture scenes, and ceremonies of the Roman Ca- 
tholic church, often accompanied by explanatory German words 
in the cursive hand, one or two of which, as the name 
" Maria " written close to a rude figure of the Virgin Mary, 
the Abbe succeeded in reading, though most of them were a 
deep mystery to him. There are an evident Adam and Eve in 
the garden, with " betruger " (deceiver) written against them ; 
Adam and Eve sent out of Paradise, with the description 
" gebant " (banished) ; a priest offering mass ; figures with the 
well-known rings of bread in their hands, explained as " fass- 
dag " (fast-day), and so on. There is no evidence of any con- 
1 Humboldt and Bonpland, vol. ii. p. 239. 


nexion with. America in the whole matter, except that the docu- 
ment is said to have come into the hands of a collector, in com- 
pany with an Iroquois dictionary, and that the editor says it is 
written on Canadian paper, but he gives no reason for thinking 
so. So far as one can judge from the published copy, it may 
have been done by a German boy in his own country. One of 
the drawings shows a man with what seems a mitre on his head, 
speaking to three figures standing reverently before him. This 
personage is entitled " grosshud M (great-hat), a common term 
among the German Jews, who speak of their rabbis, in all 
reverence, as the i( great hats." 

The Abbe Domenech had spent many years in America, and 
was, no doubt, well acquainted with Indian pictures. More- 
over, the resemblance which struck him as existing between 
the pictures he had been used to see among the Indians, and 
those in the " Book of the Savages," is quite a real one. A 
great part of .the pictures, if painted on birch-bark or deer- 
skins, might pass as Indian work. The mistake he made was 
that his generalization was too narrow, and that he founded his 
argument on a likeness which was only caused by the similarity 
of the early development of the human mind. 

Map -making is a branch of picture-writing with which the 
savage is quite familiar, and he is often more skilful in it than 
the generality of civilized men. In Tahiti, for instance, the 
natives were able to make maps for the guidance of foreign 
visitors. 1 Maps made with raised lines are mentioned as in use 
in Peru before the Conquest, 2 and there is no doubt about the 
skill of the North American . Indians and Esquimaux in the 
art, as may be seen by a number of passages in Schoolcraft 
and elsewhere. 3 The oldest map known to be in existence 
is the map of the ^Ethiopian gold-mines, dating from the 
time of Sethos I., the father of Rameses II., 4 long enough 

1 Gustav Klemin, « Allgemeine Cultur-Greschichte der Menschheit ; ' Leipzig, 
1843-52, vol. iv. p. 396. 

2 Kivero and v. Tschudi, c Antigiiedades Peruanas ; ' Vienna, 1851, p. 124. 
Prescott, ' Peru ; ' yol. i. p. 116. 

3 Schoolcraft, part i. pp. 334, 353 ; part iii. pp. 256, 485. Harmon, ' Journal ;' 
Andover, 1820, p. 371. Klemm, C. G., vol. ii. pp. 189, 280. 

4 Birch, in ■ Archaeologia,' vol. xxxiv. p. 382. 


before the time of tlie bronze tablet of Aristagoras, on which 
was inscribed the circuit of the whole earth, and all the sea and 
all rivers. 1 

The highest development of the art of picture-writing is to 
be found among the ancient Mexicans. Their productions of 
this kind are far better known than those of the Ked Indians, 
and are indeed much more artistic, as well as being more 
systematic and copious. Some of the most characteristic 
specimens have been drawn and described by Alexander von 
Humboldt, and Lord Kingsborough's great work contains a 
huge mass of them, which he published in facsimile in support 
of his views upon that philosopher's stone of ethnologists, the 
Lost Tribes of Israel. 

The bulk of the Mexican paintings are mere pictures, directly 
representing migrations, wars, sacrifices, deities, arts, tributes, 
and such matters, in a way not differing in principle from that 
of the lowest savages. But in the historical records and calen- 
dars, the events are accompanied by a regular notation of years, 
and sometimes of divisions of years, which entitles them to be 
considered as regularly dated history. The art of dating events 
was indeed not unknown to the Northern Indians. A resident 
among the Kristinaux (generally called for shortness, Crees), 
who knew them before they were in their present half- civilized 
state, says that they had names for the moons which make up 
the year, calling them "whirlwind moon," "moon when the 
fowls go to the south," " moon when the leaves fall off from the 
trees," and so on. When a hunter left a record of his chase 
pictured on a piece of birch-bark, for the information of others 
who might pass that way, he would draw a picture which 
showed the name of the month, and make beside it a drawing 
of the shape of the moon at the time, so accurately, that an 
Indian could tell within twelve or twenty-four hours, the month 
and the day of the month, when the record was set up. 2 

It is even related of the Indians of "Virginia, that they re- 
corded time by certain hieroglyphic wheels, which they called 
" Sagkokok Quiacosough," or " record of the gods." These 
wheels had sixty spokes, each for a year, as if to mark the 
1 Herod, v. 49. 2 Harmon, p. 37k 


ordinary age of man, and they were painted on skins kept by 
the principal priests in the temples. They marked on each 
spoke or division a hieroglyphic figure, to show the memorable 
events of the year. John Lederer saw one in a village called 
Pommacomek, on which the year of the first arrival of the 
Europeans was marked by a swan spouting fire and smoke 
from its mouth. The white plumage of the bird and its living 
on the water indicated the white faces of the Europeans and 
their coming by sea, while the fire and smoke coming from 
its mouth meant their firearms. 1 Thus the ancient Mexicans 
(as well as the civilized nations of Central America, who used 
a similar system) can only claim to have dated their records 
more generally and systematically than the ruder North Ameri- 
can tribes. 

The usual way of recording series of years among the Mexi- 
cans has been often described. It consists in the use of four 
symbols — tochtli, acatl, tecpatl, calli, i. e. rabbit, cane, cutting- 
stone, house, each symbol being numbered by dots from 1 to 13, 
making thus 52 distinct signs. Each year of a cycle of 52 has 
thus a distinct numbered symbol belonging to it alone, the 
numbering of course not going beyond 13. These numbered 
symbols are, however, not arranged in their reasonable order, 
but the signs change at the same time as the numbers, till all 
the 52 combinations are exhausted, the order being 1 rabbit, 
2 cane, 3 knife, 4 house, 5 rabbit, 6 cane, and so on. I have 
pointed out elsewhere the singular coincidence of a Mexican 
cycle with an ordinary French or English pack of playing-cards, 
which, arranged on this plan, as for instance ace of hearts, 2 
of spades, 3 of diamonds, 4 of clubs, 5 of hearts again, and so 
on, forms an exact counterpart of an Aztec cycle of years. The 
account of days was kept by series combined in a similar way, 
but in different numbers. 2 

The extraordinary analogy between the Mexican system of 
reckoning years in cycles, and that still in use over a great part 

1 ' Journal des Scavans,' 1681, p. 46. Sir W. Talbot, ■ The Discoveries of John, 
Lederer;' London, 1672, p. 4. Humboldt, 'Yues des Cordilleres j ' Paris, 
1810-12, pi. xiii. 

2 Tylo:-, ■ Mexico and the Mexicans ;' London, 1861, p. 239. 


of Asia, forms the strongest point of Humboldt's argument for 
the connexion of the Mexicans with Eastern Asia, and the re- 
markable character of the coincidence is greatly enforced by 
the fact, that this complex arrangement answers no useful pur- 
pose whatever, inasmuch as mere counting by numbers, or by 
signs numbered in regular succession, would have been a far 
better arrangement. It may perhaps have been introduced for 
some astrological purpose. 

The historical picture-writings of the Mexicans seem for the 
most part very bare and dull to us, who know and care so little 
about their history. They consist of records of wars, famines, 
migrations, sacrifices, and so forth, names of persons and places 
being indicated by symbolic pictures attached to them, as King 
Itzcoatl, or " knife- snake," by a serpent with stone knives on 
its back ; Tzompanco, or " the pla.ce of a skull," now Zum- 
pango, by a picture of a skull skewered on a bar between two 
upright posts, as enemies' skulls used to be set up; Chapulte- 
pec, or ' ' grasshopper-hill," by a hill and a grasshopper, and so 
on, or by more properly phonetic characters, such as will be 
presently described. The positions of footprints, arrows, etc., 
serve as guides to the direction of marches and attacks, in very 
much the same way as may be seen in Catlin's drawing of the 
pictured robe of Ma-to-toh-pa, or " Four Bears." The mystical 
paintings which relate to religion and astrology are seldom 
capable of any independent interpretation, for the same rea- 
sons which make it impossible to read the pictured records of 
songs and charms used further north, namely, that they do not 
tell their stories in full, but only recall them to the minds of 
those who are already acquainted with them. The paintings 
which represent the methodically arranged life of the Aztecs 
from childhood to old age, have more human interest about 
them than all the rest put together. In judging the Mexican 
picture-writings as a means of record, it should be borne in 
mind that though we can understand them to a considerable 
extent, we should have made very little progress in deciphering 
them, were it not that there are a number of interpretations 
made in writing from the explanations given by Indians, so 
that the traditions of the art have never been wholly lost. Some 


few of the Mexican pictures now in existence may perhaps be 
original documents made before the arrival of the Spaniards, 
and great part of those drawn since are certainly copied, wholly 
or in part, from such original pictures. 

It is to M. Aubin, of Paris, a most zealous student of Mexi- 
can antiquities, that we owe our first clear knowledge of a phe- 
nomenon of great scientific interest in the history of writing. 
This is a well-defined system of phonetic characters, which 
Clavigero and Humboldt do not seem to have been aware of, 
as it does not appear in their descriptions of the art. 1 Hum- 
boldt indeed speaks of vestiges of phonetic hieroglyphics among 
the Aztecs, but the examples he gives are only names in which 
meaning, rather than mere sound, is represented, as in the 
pictures of a face and water for Axayacatl, or u Water- Face," 
five dots and a flower for Macuilxochitl, or ' * Five-Flowers." So 
Clavigero gives in his list the name of King Itzcoatl, or " Knife- 
Snake," as represented by a picture of a snake with stone 
knives upon its back, a more genuine drawing of which is 
given here (Fig. 8), from the Le Tellier Codex. This is mere 

iik m 


Fig. 8. Fig. 9. 

picture-writing, but the way in which the same king's name is 
written in the Yergara Codex, as shown in Fig. 9, is something 
very different. Here the first syllable, itz, is indeed repre- 
sented by a weapon armed with blades of obsidian, itz (tli) ; 
but the rest of the word, coatl, though it means snake, is 
written, not by a picture of a snake, but by an earthen pot, co 
(mitl) , and above it the sign of water, a (tl) . Here we have 
real phonetic writing, for the name is not to be read, according 
to sense, " knife -kettle- water," but only according to the sound 

1 Clavigero, ' Storia Antica del Messico ;' Cesena, 1780-1, toI. ii. pp. 191, etc., 
248, etc. . Humboldt, Vues des Cord., pi. xiii. 




of the Aztec words, Itz-co-atl. Again, in Fig. 

10, in the name of Teocaltitlan, which means 

" the place of the god's house/' the different 

syllables (with the exception of the ti, which 

is only put in for euphony) are written by (b) *1 ""^ — ' 

lips, (c) a path (with footmarks on it), (a) a 

house, (d) teeth. What this combination of 

pictures means is only explained by knowing that lips, path, 

house, teeth, are called in Aztec te (ntli), o (tli), col (li) tlan 

(tli), and thus come to stand for the word Te-o-cal-(ti)-tlan. 

The device is perfectly familiar to us in what is called a 

" rebus/' as where Prior Burton's name is sculptured in St. 

Saviour's Church as a cask with a thistle on it, " burr-tun." 

Indeed, the puzzles of this kind in children's books keep alive 

to our own day the great transition stage from picture-writing 

to word- writing, the highest intellectual effort of one period in 

our history coming down, as so often happens, to be the child's 

play of a later time. 

M. Aubin may be considered as the discoverer of these pho- 
netic signs in the Mexican pictures, or at least he is the first 
who has worked them out systematically and published a list 
of them. 1 But- the ancient written interpretations have been 
standing for centuries to prove their existence. Thus, in the 
Mendoza Codex, the name of a place pictured as 
in Fig. 11 by a fishing-net and teeth, is interpre- 
tated Matlatlan, that is " Net-Place." Now, 
matla (tl) means a net, and so far the name is 
a picture, but the teeth, tlan (tli), are used, not 
pictorially but phonetically, for tlan, place. 
Other more complicated names, such as Acolma, 
Quauhpanoayan, etc., are written in like manner in phonetic 
symbols in the same document: 2 

There is no sufficient reason to make us doubt that this 

1 Aubin, in ' Kevue Orientale et Americaine,' vols, iii.-v. Brasseur, Hist, des 
Nat. Civ. du Mexique et de l'Amerique Centrale ; Paris, 1857-9, vol. i. An 
attempt to prove the existence of something more nearly approaching alphabetic 
signs (Rev., vol. iv. p. 276-7 ; Brasseur, p. lxviu.) requires much clearer evidence. 

2 Kingsborough, vol. i., and Expl. in vol. vi. 


purely phonetic writing was of native Mexican origin, and after 
the Spanish Conquest they turned it to account in a new and 
curious way. The Spanish missionaries, when embarrassed by 
the difficulty of getting the converts to remember their Ave 
Marias and Paternosters, seeing that the words were of course 
mere nonsense to them, were helped out by the Indians them- 
selves, who substituted Aztec words as near in sound as might 
be to the Latin, and wrote down the pictured equivalents for 
these words, which enabled them to remember the required 
formulas. Torquemada and Las Casas have recorded two in- 
stances of this device, that Pater noster was written by a flag 
(pantli) and a prickly pear (nochtli), while the sign of water, a 
(tl) combined with that of aloe, me (tl) made a compound word 
ametl, which would mean " water-aloe," but in sound made 
a very tolerable substitute for Amen. 1 But M. Aubin has ac- 
tually found the beginning of a Paternoster of this kind in the 

f metropolitan library of Mexico 

£^3 (Fig. 12), made with a flag, pa 
(ntli), a stone, te (tl), a prickly 
pa- te noch- te. pear, ?ioc7i (tli), and again a stone, 

lg ' " te (tl), and which would read 

Pa-te noch-te, or perhaps Pa-tetl noch-tetl. 2 

After the conquest, when the Spaniards were hard at work 
introducing their own religion and civilization among the con- 
quered Mexicans, they found it convenient to allow the old 
picture-writing still to be used, even in legal documents. It 
disappeared in time, of course, being superseded in the long- 
run by the alphabet ; but it is to this transition -period that we 
owe many, perhaps most, of the picture- documents still pre- 
served. Copies of old historical paintings were made and con- 
tinued to dates after the arrival of Cortes, and the use of re- 
cords written in pictures, or in a mixture of pictures and Spanish 
or Aztec words in ordinary writing, relating to lawsuits, the 
inheritance of property, genealogies, etc., were in constant use 
for many years later, and special officers were appointed under 
government to interpret such documents. To this transition- 
period, the writing whence the "name of Teocaltitlan (Fig. 10) 
1 Brasseur, toL i. p. xli. 2 £ u bi nj EeY# . and A., vol. iii. p. 255. 


is taken, clearly belongs, as appears by the drawing of the 
house with its arched door. 

A genealogical table of a native family in the possession of 
Mr. Christy is as good a record of this time of transition as 
could well be cited. The names in it are written, but are ac- 
companied by male and female heads drawn in a style that is 
certainly Aztec. The names themselves tell the story of the 
change that was going on in the country. One branch of the 
family, among whom are to be read the names of Citlalmecatl, 
or u Star-Necklace," and Cohuacihuatl, or " Snake-Woman/' 
ends in a lady with the Spanish name of Justa ; while another 
branch, beginning with such names as Tlapalxilotzin and Xiuh- 
cozcatzin, finishes with Juana and her children Andres and 
Francisco. The most thoroughly native thing in the whole is 
a figure referring to an ancestor of Justa's, and connected with 
his name by a line of footprints to show how the line is to be 
followed, in true Aztec fashion. The figure itself is a head 
drawn in native style, with the eye in full front, though the 
face is in profile, in much the same way as an Egyptian would 
have drawn it, and it is set in a house as a symbol of dignity, 
having written over against it the high title of Ompamozcalti- 
totzaqualtzinco, which, if I may trust the imperfect dictionary 
of Molina, and my own weak knowledge of Aztec, means " His 
excellency our twice skilful gaoler." 

The importance of this Mexican phonetic system in the His- 
tory of the Art of Writing may be perhaps made clearer by a 
comparison of the Aztec pictures with the Egyptian hierogly- 

Egyptian hieroglyphic inscriptions consist of figures of ob- 
jects, animate and inanimate, men and animals, and parts of 
them, plants, the heavenly bodies, and an immense number of 
different weapons, tools, and articles of the most miscellaneous 
character. These figures are arranged in upright columns or 
horizontal bands, and are to be read in succession, but they 
are not all intended to act upon the mind in the same way. 
When an ordinary inscription is taken to pieces, it is found 
that the figures composing it fall into two great classes. Part of 
them are to be read and understood as pictures, a drawing of 



a horse for " horse/' a branch for " wood," etc., upon the same 
principle as in any savage picture-writing. The other part of the 
figures are phonetic. Thus the figure of a strap, the name of 
which is m-s, becomes a phonetic sign to write the sound m-s 
with. (The - stands for some vowel, which is represented by 
ou in the Coptic form of the word, mous.) Again, there are 
many characters which Champollion held to be pure conso- 
nants, f, r, and so forth. They are certainly so in the spelling 
of Ptolemy and Cleopatra, Tiberius and Hadrian, and such fo- 
reign names, and even in writing pure Egyptian words at a 
much earlier date, where they come at the ends of words, as 
where the mouth, to or ru, ends the word Jcar (under, with), 
being there nothing but the letter r. Modern Egyptologists, 
however, hold Champollion to have gone too far in reducing 
phonetic characters to mere letters; for instance, Mr. Birch 
reads as lea and pu the h- and p- sounds which Champollion 
set down as mere letters h and p in his alphabet. For prac- 
tical purposes in interpreting Egyptian inscriptions, the dis- 
tinction is of very little consequence, for vowels are very hazy 
things in the ancient Egyptian, as in its successor the Coptic, 
and it may be allowable to go on writing Egyptian words 
whose vowels are indefinite, as though they had none at all. 
But the syllabic theory (it is not a new view, for Dr. Young 
held it before Champollion went away from it) is of great in- 
terest in the history of writing, as giving the whole course of 
development, by which a picture, of a mouth for instance, 
meant first simply mouth, then the name of mouth ro, and 
lastly dropped its vowel and became the letter r. Of these 
three steps, the Mexicans made the first two. 

In Egyptian hieroglyphics, special figures are not always set 
apart for phonetic use. At least, a number of signs are used 
sometimes as letters, and sometimes as pictures, in which 
latter case they are often marked with a stroke. Thus the 
mouth, with a stroke to it, is usually (though not always) 
pictorial, as it were, ' ' one mouth," while without the stroke it 
is r or ro, and so on. The words, of a sentence are generally 
written by a combination of these two methods, that is, by 
spelling the word first, and then adding a picture sign to re- 


move all doubt as to its meaning. Thus the letters read as 
fnti in an inscription, followed by a drawing of a worm, mean 
" worm " (Coptic, fent) , and the letters kk, followed by the 
picture of a star hanging from heaven, mean " darkness" (Cop- 
tic, hake) . There may even be words written in ancient hiero- 
glyphics which are still alive in English. Thus hbn, followed 
by two signs, one of which is the determinative for wood, is 
ebony; and tb, followed by the drawing of a brick, is a sun- 
dried brick, Coptic tobe, tobi, which seems to have passed into 
the Arabic tob, or with the article, attob, thence into Spanish 
through the Moors, as adobe, in which form, and as dobie, it 
is current among the English-speaking population of America. 

The Egyptians do not seem to have entirely got rid of their 
determinative pictures even in the latest form of their native 
writing, the demotic character. How it came to pass that, 
having come so early to the use of phonetic writing, they were 
later than other nations in throwing off the crutches of pic- 
ture-signs, is a curious question. No doubt the poverty of their 
language, which expressed so many things by similar combina- 
tions of consonants, and the indefiniteness of their vowels, had 
to do with it, just as we see that poverty of language, and the 
consequent necessity of making similar words do duty for many 
different ideas, has led the Chinese to use in their writing de- 
terminative signs, the so-called keys or radicals, which were 
originally pictures, though now hardly recognizable as such. 
Nothing proves that the Egyptian determinative signs were 
not mere useless lumber, so well as the fact that if there had 
been none, the deciphering of the hieroglyphics in modern 
times could hardly have gone a step beyond the first stage, 
the reading of the kings' names. 

We thus see that the ancient Egyptians and the Aztecs 
made in much the same way the great step from picture- 
writing to word-writing. To have used the picture of an 
object to represent the sound of the root or crude-form of 
its name, as the Mexicans did in drawing a hand, ma (itl) , to 
represent, not a hand, but the sound ma; and teeth, tlan (tli), 
to represent, not teeth, but the sound tlan, though they do 
not seem to have applied it to anything but the writing of 



proper names and foreign words, is sufficient to show that they 
had started on the road which led the Egyptians to a system of 
syllabic, and to some extent of alphabetic writing. There is 
even evidence that the Maya nation of Yucatan, the ruins of 
whose temples and palaces are so well known from the tra- 
vels of Catherwood and Stephens, not only had a system of 
phonetic writing, but used it for writing ordinary words and 
sentences. A Spanish MS., 'Relacion de las Cosas de Yu- 
catan/ bearing the date of 1561, and the name of Diego de 
Landa, Bishop of Merida, has just been published by the Abbe 
Brasseur, 1 and contains not only a set of chronological signs 
resembling the figures of the Central American sculptures and 
the Dresden Codex, but a list of over thirty characters, some 
alphabetic, as a, i, m, n; some syllabic, as ku, ti; and a sen- 
tence, ma in Tcati, "I will not," written with them. The 
genuineness of this information, and its bearing on the inter- 
pretation of the inscriptions on the monuments, are, of course, 
matters for future investigation. 

Yet another people, the Chinese, made the advance from 
pictures to phonetic writing, and it was perhaps because of 
the peculiar character of their spoken language that they did 
it in so different a way. The whole history of their art of 
writing still lies open to us. They began by drawing the 
plainest outlines of sun, moon, tortoise, fish, boy, hatchet, tree, 
dog, and so forth, and thus forming characters which are still 
extant, and are known as the Ku-wan, or " ancient pictures." 2 
Such pictures, though so much altered that, were not their 
ancient forms still to be seen, it would hardly be safe to say they 
had ever been pictures at all, are still used to some extent in 
Chinese writing, as in the characters for man, sun, moon, tree, 
etc. There are also combined pictorial signs, as water and eye 
for " tears," and other kinds of purely symbolic characters. But 
the great mass of characters at present in use are double, con- 
sisting of two signs, one for sound, the other for sense. They 

1 Brasseur, ■ Relation des Choses de Yucatan de Diego de Landa,' etc. ; Paris 
and London, 1864. 

2 J. M. Callery, ' Systema Phoneticum Scripture Sinica?,' part i. j Macao, 1841, 
p. 29. Endlicher, Chin. Gramm., p. 3, etc. 


are called king- thing, that is, "pictures and sounds." In one 
of the two signs the transition from the picture of the object 
to the sound of its name has taken place ; in the other it has 
not, but it is still a picture, and its use (something like that of 
the determinative in the Egyptian hieroglyphics) is to define 
which of the meanings belonging to the spoken word is to be 
taken. Thus a ship is called in Chinese chow, so a picture of a 
ship stands for the sound chow. But the word chow means 
several other things; and to show which is intended in any- 
particular instance, a determinative sign or key is attached to 
it. Thus the ship joined with the sign of water stands for 
chow, "ripple," with that of speech for chow, "loquacity," 
with that of fire, for chow, " flickering of flame ?* and so on for 
" waggon-pole," u fluff," and several other things, which have 
little in common but the name of chow. If we agreed that 
pictures of a knife, a tree, an 0, should be determinative signs 
of things which have to do with cutting, with plants, and with 
numbers, we might make a drawing of a pear to do duty, with 
the assistance of one of these determinative signs, for pare, pear, 
paAr. In a language so poverty-stricken as the Chinese, which 
only allows itself so small a stock of words, and therefore has 
to make the same sound stand for so many different ideas, the 
use of such a system needs no explanation. 

Looking now at the history of purely alphabetic writing, it 
has been shown that there is one alphabet, that of the Egyptian 
hieroglyphics, the development of which (and of course of its 
derived forms) is clearly to be traced from the stage of pure 
pictures to that of pure letters. Some few of these interesting 
characters are even now in use. The Coptic Christians still keep 
up in their churches their sacred" language, which is a direct 
descendant of the ancient Egyptian ; and the Coptic alphabet, 
in which it is written and printed, was formed in early Christian 
times by adding to the Greek alphabet certain new characters 
to express articulations not properly belonging to the Greek. 
Among these additional letters, at least four seem clearly to be 
taken from the old hieroglyphics, probably from their hieratic 
or cursive form, and thus to preserve an unbroken tradition at 
once from the period of picture-writing to that of the alphabet, 


and from times earlier than the building of the pyramids up to 
the present day. 

But as to the ultimate origin of most of the alphabets which 
are or have been in use in the world, we have no such satis- 
factory information as this. Thus, though the great family 
of alphabets to which the Koman letters belong with the Greek, 
the Gothic, the Northern Kunes, etc., may be easily traced 
back into connection with the Phoenician and Old Hebrew 
characters, it is a very different question to tell how these 
ancient Semitic letters came to be made. The theory main- 
tained by Gesenius, that the Phoenician and Old Hebrew letters 
/ are rude pictures of Aleph the Ox, Beth the House, Gimel the 
Camel, etc., may, I think, be shown to be unsafe. Some of 
the resemblances may possibly be real, though they are mostly 
very slight and indefinite ; and while (after setting aside words 
of very doubtful or fanciful etymology, as Zayin, Koph, He) 
there appear to be some eleven letters which are more or less 
like the meanings of their names, pure chance may be shown 
to produce nearly as many coincidences as this. At least, if 
we turn the list upside down, and put Tau against the letter 
Aleph, and so on, it seems to me that there will be found some- 
thing like eight resemblances of about the same strength, or 
weakness. Again, the theory that the names of the letters 
date from the time when these letters were first formed, and 
thus record the very process of their formation, is a very bold 
one, considering that we know by experience how slight the 
bond is which may attach the name to the letter. Two alpha- 
bets, which are actually descended from that which is also 
represented by the Phoenician and Hebrew, have taken to 
themselves new sets of name's belonging to the languages they 
were used to write, simply choosing for each letter a word 
which began with it. The names of our Anglo-Saxon Bunes 
are Feoh (cattle, fee), Ur (urus, wild ox), Thorn (thorn), Hagl 
(hail), Nead (need), and so on, for F, U, Th, H, N, etc., this 
English list corresponding in great measure with those belong- 
ing to the Scandinavian and German forms of the Bunic alpha- 
bet. Again, in the old Slavonic alphabet, the names of Dobro, 
(good), Zemlja (land), Liode (people), Slovo (word), are given 
to D, Z, L, S. 


If it be granted that there is an amount of resemblance 
between the letters and their names in the old Semitic alpha- 
bets, which is wanting in these later ones, it does not follow 
from thence that the shape of the Hebrew letters was taken 
from their names. Letters may be named in two ways, acro- 
stically, by names chosen because they begin with the right 
letters, or descriptively, as when we speak of certain characters 
as pothooks and hangers. A combination of the two methods, by 
choosing out of the words beginning with the proper letter such 
as had also some suitability to describe its shape, would produce 
much such a result as we see in the names of the Hebrew letters, 
and would moreover serve a direct object in helping children 
to learn them. It is easy to choose such names in English, as 
Arch or Arrowhead for A, Bow or Butterfly for B, Curve or 
Crescent for C ; and we may even pick out of the Hebrew 
lexicon other names which fit about as well as the present set. 
Whatever may be the real origin,, syllabic or other, of the 
Semitic characters, the argument so confidently put forth in 
the Hebrew grammars is not strong enough for the weight laid 
upon it, seeing that the coincidences on which it rests may be 
explained as being not primary and essential, but secondary 
and superficial. The list of names of letters, Aleph, Beth, 
Gimel, and the rest, is certainly a very ancient and interesting 
record; but its value may lie not in its taking us back to the 
pictorial origin of the Hebrew letters, but in its preserving for 
us among the Semitic race the earliest known version of the 
" A was an Archer." 

Mr. Samuel Sharpe has made an attempt to derive the Hebrew 
letters from Egyptian hieroglyphs, and in his list there are cer- 
tainly two letters, both also belonging to the Coptic supple- 
ment, namely, / and sh, which run through the whole series of 
hieroglyphic, hieratic, Phoenician, old and new Hebrew (in Yau 
and Shin), in very similar forms, a point which deserves careful 
investigation. 1 With respect to these speculations, however, it 
may be suggested that, though it is likely enough that the 
Jews or Phoenicians may have got the art of writing from the 
Egyptians, whose possession of it is proved to go back to so 
1 Sharpe, ' Egyptian Hieroglyphics j' London, 1861, p. 17. 


early a period, it does not necessarily follow from such a sup- 
position that the characters of their alphabet should be trace- 
able, letter for letter, to Egyptian originals. The possibility of 
one people getting the art of writing from another, without 
.^taking the characters they used for particular letters, is not a 
matter of theory, but of fact. Two systems of letters, or ra- 
ther of characters representing syllables, have been invented 
in modern times, by men who had got the idea of represent- 
ing sound by written characters, from seeing the books of ci- 
vilized men, and applied it in their own way to their own lan- 

Some forty years ago a halfbreed Cherokee Indian, named 
Sequoyah (otherwise George Guess), invented an ingenious 
system of writing his language in syllabic signs, which were 
adopted by the missionaries, and came into common use. In 
the table given by Schoolcraft there are eighty-five such signs, 
in great part copied or modified from those Sequoyah had 
learnt from print ; but the letter D is to be read a ; the letter 
M, lu ; the figure 4, se ; and so on through R, T, i, A, and 
a number more. 1 

The syllabic system invented by a West African negro, 
Momoru Doalu Bukere, that is to say, Mohammed Doalu the 
Bookman, was found in use in the Vei country, . about fifteen 
years since. 2 When Europeans inquired into its origin, Doalu 
said that the invention was revealed to him in a dream by a tall 
venerable white man in a long coat, who said he was sent by 
other white men to bring him a book, and who taught him 
some characters to write words with. Doalu awoke, but never 
learnt what the book was about. So he called his friends to- 
gether, and one of them afterwards had another dream, in 
which a white man appeared to him, and told him that the 
book had come from God. It appears that Doalu, when he was 
a boy, had really seen a white missionary, and had learnt verses 
from the English Bible from him, so that it is pretty clear that 
the sight of a printed book gave him the original idea which 
he worked out into his very complete and original phonetic 

1 Schoolcraft, part ii. p. 228. Bastian, vol. i. p. 423. 

2 Koelfe, ' Grammar of the Yei Language ;' London, 1854, p. 229, etc. 


system. It is evident from Fig. 13 that some part of the cha- 
racters he adopted were taken, of course without any reference 

2 b B £,T, K I \Jl ~jjJ~H, 

be fen aba abe wile no, po re{le\ 

Fig. 13. 

to their sound, from the letters he had seen in print. His 
system numbers 162 characters, representing mostly syllables, 
as a, be, bo, dso, fen, gba ; but sometimes longer articulations, 
as sell, sediya, taro. Though it is almost entirely and purely 
phonetic, it is interesting to observe that it includes three ge- 
nuine picture - signs, o o gba, " money -," ° bu, " gun/' (re- 
presented by bullets,) and *~*y* eld, " water," this last sign 
being identical with that which stands for water in the Egyptian 

It appears from these facts that the transmission of the art 
of writing does not necessarily involve a detailed transmission 
of the particular signs in use, and the difficulty in tracing the 
origin of the Semitic characters may result from their having 
been formed, in great part or wholly, in the same way as the 
American and African syliabaria. If this be the case, there is 
an end of all hope of tracing them any further. 

In conclusion, it may be observed that the art of picture- 
writing soon dwindles away in all countries when word -writing 
is introduced ; yet there are a few isolated forms in which it 
holds its own, in spite of writing and printing, at this very- 
day. The so-called Roman numerals are still in use, and | 1 1 
1 1 1 are as plain and indisputable picture-writing as any sign 
on an Indian scroll of birch-bark. Why V an d X mean five 
and ten is not so clear, but there is some evidence in favour 
of the view that it may have come by counting fingers or 
strokes up to nine, and then making a stroke with another 
across to mark it, somewhat as the deaf-and-dumb Massieu 
tells us that, in his untaught state, his fingers taught him to 
count up to ten, and then he made a mark. Loskiel, the Mo- 
ravian missionary, says of the Iroquois, " They count up to ten, 


and make a cross ; then ten again, and so on, till they have 
finished; then they take the tens together, and make with 
them hundreds, thousands, and hundreds of thousands." 1 A 
more modern observer says of the distant tribe of the Creeks, 
that they reckon by tens, and that in recording on grave -posts 
the years of age of the deceased, the scalps he has taken, or 
the war-parties he has led, they make perpendicular strokes for 
units, and a cross for ten. 2 The Chinese character for ten is 
an upright cross ; and in an old Chinese account of the life of 
Christ, it is said that " they made a very large and heavy ma- 
chine of wood, resembling the character ten," which he carried, 
and to which he was nailed. 3 The Egyptians, in their hiero- 
glyphic character, counted by upright strokes up to nine, and 
then made a special sign for ten, in this respect resembling 
the modern Creek Indians ; and the fact that the Chinese only 
count | || 1 1 1 in strokes, and go on with an X for four, and 
then with various other symbols till they come to + or ten, 
does not interfere with the fact, that in three or four systems 
of numeration, so far as we know independent of one another, 
in Italy, China, and North America, more or less of the earlier 
numerals are indicated by counted strokes, and ten by a crossed 
stroke. Such an origin for the Eoman X is quite consistent 
with a half X or V, being used for five, to save making a num- 
ber of strokes which would be difficult to count at a glance. 4 

However this may be, the pictorial origin of | 1 1 1 1 1 is be- 
yond doubt. And in technical writing, such terms as T-square 
and S-h°°k;, and phrases such as " © before clock 4 min.," 
and " ]) rises at 8h. 35m.," survive to show that even in the 
midst of the highest European civilization, the spirit of the 
earliest and rudest form of writing is not yet quite extinct. 

1 Loskiel, Gesch. der Mission der evangelischen Briider ; Barby, 1789, p. 39. 

2 Schoolcraft, part i. p. 273. 

3 Davis, 'The Chinese ;' London, 1851, vol. ii. p. 176. 

4 A dactylic origin of V, as being a rude figure of the open hand, with thumb 
stretched out, and fingers close together, succeeding the I II III 1 1 1 1 , made with the 
upright fingers, has been propounded by Grotefend, and has occurred to others. 
It is plausible, but wants actual evidence. 




The trite comparison of savages to ' ' grown-up children," is in 
the main a sound one, though not to be carried out too strictly. 
In the uncivilized American or Polynesian, the strength of body 
and force of character of a grown man are combined with a 
mental development in many respects not beyond that of a 
young child of a civilized race. It has been already noticed 
how naturally children can appreciate and understand such 
direct expressions of thought as the gesture-language and pic- 
ture-writing. In like manner, the use of dolls or images as an 
assistance to the operations of the mind, is familiar to all chil- 
dren, though among those who grow up under the influences 
of civilized society, it is mostly superseded and forgotten 
in after life. Few educated Europeans ever thoroughly realize 
the fact, that they have once passed through a condition of mind 
from which races at a lower stage of civilization never fully 
emerge ; but this is certainly the case, and the European child 
playing with its doll, furnishes the key to several of the mental 
phenomena which distinguish the more highly cultivated races 
of mankind from those lower in the scale. 

When a child plays with a doll or plaything, the toy is com- 
monly made to represent in the child's mind some imaginary 
object which is more or less like it. Wooden soldiers, for in- 
stance, or the beasts in a Noah's ark, have a real resemblance 
which any one would recognize at once to soldiers and beasts, 


and all that the child has to do is to suppose them bigger, 
and alive, and to consider them as walking of themselves when 
they are pushed about. But an imaginative child will be con- 
tent with much less real resemblance than this. It will bring 
in a larger subjective element, and make a dog do duty for a 
horse, or a soldier for a shepherd, till at last the objective re- 
semblance almost disappears, and a bit of wood may be dragged 
about, representing a ship on the sea, or a coach on the road. 
Here the likeness of the bit of wood to a ship or a coach is 
very slight indeed ; but it is a thing, and can be moved about 
in an appropriate manner, and placed in a suitable position 
with respect to other objects. Unlike as the toy may be to 
what it represents in the child's mind, it still answers a pur- 
pose, and is an evident assistance to the child in enabling it to 
arrange and develope its ideas, by working the objects and 
actions and stories it is acquainted with, into a series of dra- 
matic pictures. Of how much use the material object is in set- 
ting the mind to work, may be seen by taking it away and leav- 
ing the child to play, with nothing to play with. 

At an early age, children learn more from play than from 
teaching ; and the use of toys is very great in developing their 
minds by giving them the means of, as it were, taking a scene 
or an event to pieces, and putting its parts together in new 
combinations, a process which immensely increases the defi- 
niteness of the children's ideas and their power of analysis. It 
is because the use of toys is principally in developing the sub- 
jective side of the mind, that the elaborate figures and models 
of which the toy-shops have been full of late years are of so 
little use. They are carefully worked out into the nicest de- 
tails; but they are models or pictures, not playthings, and 
children, who know quite well what it is they want, tire of 
them in a few hours, unless, indeed, they can break them up 
and make real toys of the bits. What a child wants is not one 
picture, but the means of making a thousand. Objective know- 
ledge, such as is to be gained from the elaborate doll's houses 
and grocer's shops, with their appurtenances, may be got in 
plenty elsewhere by mere observation ; but toys, to be of value 
in early education, should be separate, so as to allow of their 


being arranged in any variety of combination, and not too ser- 
vile and detailed copies of objects, so that they may not be 
mere pictures, but symbols, which a child can make to stand 
for many objects with the aid of its imagination. 

In later years, and among highly educated people, the men- 
tal process which goes on in a child playing with wooden sol- 
diers and horses, though it never disappears, must be sought 
for in the midst of more complex phenomena. Perhaps no- 
thing in after life more closely resembles the effect of a doll 
upon a child, than the effect of the illustrations of a tale upon 
a grown-up reader. Here the objective resemblance is very 
indefinite ; two artists would make pictures of the same scene 
that were very unlike one another, the very persons and places 
depicted are imaginary, and yet what reality and definiteness 
is given to the scene by a good picture. But in this case the 
direct action of an image on the mind complicates itself with 
the deepest problems of painting and sculpture. The com- 
parison of the workings of the mind of the uncivilized man, 
and of the civilized child, is much less difficult. 

Mr. Backhouse one day noticed in Van Diemen's Land a 
native woman arranging several stones that were flat, oval, 
and about two inches wide, and marked in various directions 
with black and red lines. These he learned represented absent 
friends, and one larger than the rest stood for a fat native 
woman on Flinders Island, known by the name of Mother 
Brown. 1 Similar practices are found among far higher races 
than the ill-fated Tasmanians. Among some North American 
tribes, a mother who has lost a child keeps its memory ever 
present to her by filling its cradle with black feathers and 
quills, and carrying it about with her for a year or more. When 
she stops anywhere, she sets up the cradle and talks to it as 
she goes about her work, just as she would have done if the 
dead baby had been still alive within it. 2 Here we have no 
image; but in Africa we find a rude doll, representing the 
child, kept as a memorial. It is well known that over a great 

1 Backhouse, ' Narrative of a Visit to the Australian Colonies ; ' London, 1843, 
p. 104. 

2 Catlin, vol. ii. p. 133. 


part of Africa the practice prevails, that whenever twin chil- 
dren are born, one or both of them are immediately killed. 
Among the Wanyamwezi, one of the two is always killed ; and, 
strange to say, " the universal custom amongst these tribes, is 
for the mother to wrap a gourd or calabash in skins, to place it 
to sleep with, and feed it like, the survivor." 1 Among the Be- 
chuanas, it is a custom for married women to carry a doll with 
them till they have a child, when the doll is discarded. There 
is one of these dolls in the London Missionary Museum, con- 
sisting simply of a long calabash, like a bottle, wound round 
with strings of beads. The Basuto women use clay dolls in the 
same way, giving them the names of tutelary deities, and treat- 
ing them as children. 2 Among the Ostyaks of Eastern Si- 
beria, there is found a still more instructive case, in which we 
see the transition from the image of the dead man to the actual 
idol. When a man dies, they set up a rude wooden image of 
him, which receives offerings and has honours paid to it, and 
the widow embraces and caresses it. As a general rule, these 
images are buried at the end of three years or so, but some- 
times the image of a shaman 3 is set up permanently, and re- 
mains as a saint for ever. 4 

The principal use of images to races in the lower stages of 
civilization is that to which their name of ' ' the visible," elScoXov, 
idol, has come to be in great measure restricted in modern lan- 
guage. The idol answers to the savage in one province of 
thought the same purpose that its analogue the doll does to 
the child. It enables him to give a definite existence and a 
personality to the vague ideas of higher beings, which his mind 
can hardly grasp without some material aid. How these ideas 
came into the minds of even the lowest savages, need not be 
discussed here ; it is sufficient to know that, so far as we have 
accurate information, they seem to be present everywhere in 
at least a rudimentary state. 

1 Burton, e Central Africa,' vol. ii. p. 23. 2 Casalis, p. 251. 

3 A shaman is a native sorcerer or medicine-man. His name is corrupted from 
Sanskrit cramana, a Buddhist ascetic, a term which is one of the many relics of 
Buddhism in Northern Asia, having been naturalized into the grovelling fetish- 
worship of the Ostyaks and Tunguzes. See Weber, ' Indische Skizzen,' p. 66. 

4 Erman, ' Beise urn die Erde ; ' Berlin, 1833-48, vol. ii. p. 677. 


It does not appear that idols accompany religious ideas down 
to the lowest levels of the human race, but rather that they be- 
long to a period of transition and growth. At least this seems 
the only reasonable explanation of the fact, that in America, 
for instance, among the lowest races, the Fuegians and the 
Indians of the southern forests, we hear little or nothing of 
idols. Among the so-called Red Indians of the North, we 
sometimes find idols worshipped and sacrificed to, but not com- 
monly, while in Mexico and Peru the whole apparatus of idols, 
temples, priests, and sacrifices is found in a most complex and 
elaborate form. It does not seem, indeed, that the growth of 
the use of images may be taken as any direct measure of the 
growth of religious ideas, which is complicated with a multi- 
tude of other things. But it seems that when man has got 
some way in developing the religious element in him, he begins 
to catch at the device of setting a puppet or a stone as the 
symbol and representative of the notions of a higher being 
which are floating in his mind. He sees in it, as a child does 
in a doll, a material form which his imagination can clothe with 
all the attributes of a being which he has never seen,. but of 
whose existence and nature he judges by what he supposes to 
be its works. He can lodge it in the place of honour, cover it 
up in the most precious garments, propitiate it with offerings 
such as would be acceptable to himself. The Christian mis- 
sionary goes among the heathen to teach the doctrines of a 
higher religion, and to substitute for the crude superstition of 
the savage a belief in a God so far beyond human comprehen- 
sion, that no definition of the Deity is possible to man beyond 
vague predications, as of infinite power, duration, knowledge, 
and goodness. It is not- perhaps to be. wondered at, that the 
missionary should see nothing in idol-worship but hideous folly 
and wickedness, and should look upon an idol as a special in- 
vention of the devil. He is strengthened, moreover, in such a 
view by the fact that by the operation of a certain law of the 
human mind (of which more will be said presently), the idol, 
which once served a definite and important purpose in the edu- 
cation of the human race, has come to be confounded with the 
idea of which it was the symbol, and has thus become the parent 


of the grossest superstition and delusion. But the student 
who occupies himself in tracing the early stages of human 
civilization, can see in the rude image of the savage an impor- 
tant aid to early religious development, while it often happens 
that the missionary is as unable to appreciate the use and value 
of an idol, as the grown-up man is to realize the use of a doll 
to a child. 

Man being the highest living creature that can be seen and 
imitated, it is natural that idols should mostly be imitations, 
more or less rude, of the human form. To show that the beings 
they represent are greater and more powerful than man, they 
are often huge in size, and sometimes, by a very natural expe- 
dient, several heads and pairs of arms and legs show that they 
have more wisdom, strength, and swiftness than man. The 
sun and moon, which, in the physical system of the savage, are 
often held to be living creatures of monstrous power, are re- 
presented by images. The lower animals, too, are often raised 
to the honour of personating supernatural powers, a practice 
which need not surprise us, when we consider that the savage 
does not set the lower animals at so great a depth below him 
as the civilized man does, but allows them the possession of 
language, and after his fashion, of souls, while we perhaps err 
in the opposite direction, by stretching the great gap which 
separates the lowest man from the highest animal, into an im- 
passable gulf. Moreover, as animals nave some powers which 
man only possesses in a less degree, or not at all, these powers 
may be attributed to a deity by personating him under the 
forms of the animals which possess them, or by giving to an 
image of human form parts of such animals ; thus the feet of a 
stag, the head of a lion, or the wings of a bird, may serve to 
express the swiftness or ferocity of a god, or to show that he 
can fly into the upper regions of the air, or, like the goat's feet 
of Pan, they may be mere indications of his character and func- 

It is not necessary that the figure of a deity should have the 
characteristics of the race who worship it ; the figure of another 
race may seem fitter for the purpose. Mr. Catlin, for instance, 
brought over with him a tent from the Crow Indians, which he 


describes as having the Great or Good Spirit painted on one 
side of it, and the Bad Spirit on the other. His drawing, un- 
fortunately, only shows clearly one figure, in the unmistakable 
uniform of a white soldier with a musket in the one hand and a 
pipe in the other, 1 and this may very likely be the figure of the 
Good Spirit, for the pipe is a known symbol of peace. 2 But 
the white man stands also to the savage painter for the portrait 
of the Evil Demon, especially in Africa, where we find the 
natives of Mozambique drawing their devil in the likeness of a 
white man, 3 while Komer, speaking of the people of the Guinea 
coast, says that they say the devil is white, and paint him with 
their whitest colours. The pictures of him are lent on hire for 
a week or so by the old woman who makes them, to people 
whom the devil visits at night. When he sees his image, he is 
so terrified that he never comes back. 4 This impersonation 
need not, however, be intended by any means as an insult to 
the white man. As Captain Burton says of his African name 
of Muzungu Mbaya, " the wicked white man," it would have 
been but a sorry compliment to have called him a good white 
man. Much of the reverence of the savage is born rather of 
fear than of love, and the white colonist has seldom failed to 
make out that title to the respect of the savage, which lies in 
the power, not unaccompanied by the will, to hurt him. 

The rudeness and shapelessness of some of the blocks and 
stones which serve as idols among many tribes, and those not 
always the lowest, is often surprising. There seems to be but 
one limit to the shapelessness of an idol, which is yet to repre- 
sent the human form, and this is the same which a child would 
unconsciously apply, namely, that its length, breadth, and 
thickness must bear a proportion not too far different from the 
proportions of the human body. A wooden brick or a cotton- 
reel, set up or lying down, will serve well enough for a child to 

1 Catlin, vol. i. p. 44. 

2 Sir G-. Simpson, Narrative of a Journey round the World ; London, 1847, 
vol. i. p. 75. 

3 Purchas, vol. v. p. 758. See Livingstone, Missionary Travels, etc., in South 
Africa j London, 1857, p. 465. 

4 L. F. Komer, Nachr. von der Kiiste Guinea's j Copenhagen, Leipzig, 1769, 
p. 43. 



represent a man or woman standing or lying, but a cube or 
a ball would not answer the purpose so well, and if put for a 
man, could hardly be supposed even by the imagination of a 
child, to represent more than position and movement, or rela- 
tive size when compared with larger or smaller objects. Much 
the same test is applied by the uncivilized man in a particular 
class of myths or legends, which come to be made on this wise. 
We all have more or less of the power of seeing forms of men 
and animals in inanimate objects, which sometimes have in fact a 
considerable likeness of outline to what they suggest, but which, 
in some instances, have scarcely any other resemblance to the 
things into which fancy shapes them, than a rough similarity 
in the proportions of their longer and shorter diameters. Myths 
which have been applied to such fancied resemblances, or have 
grown up out of them, may be collected from all parts of the 
world, and from races high and low in the scale of culture. 

Among the Biccaras, there was once a young Indian who 
was in love with a girl, but her parents refused their consent to 
the marriage, so the youth went out into the prairie, lamenting 
his fate, and the girl wandered out to the same place, and the 
faithful dog followed his master. There they wandered with 
nothing to live on but the wild grapes, and at last they were 
turned into stone, first their feet, and then gradually the upper 
part of their bodies, till at last nothing was left unchanged but 
a bunch of grapes, which the girl holds in her hand to this day. 
And all this story has grown out of the fancied likeness of three 
stones to two human figures and a dog. There are many 
grapes growing near, and the Biccaras venerate these figures, 
leaving little offerings for them when they pass by. 1 

There was a Maori warrior named Hau, and his wife Wairaka 
deserted him. So he followed her, going from one river to 
the next, and at last he came to one, where he looked out slyly 
from the corner of his eye to see if he could discover her. He 
breathed hard when he reached the place where Wairaka was 
sitting with her paramour. He said to her, " Wairaka, I am 
thirsty, fetch me some water/' She got up and walked down 
to the sea with a calabash in each hand. He made her go on 
1 Lewis and Clarke, Expedition ; Philadelphia, 1814, p. 107. 


until the waves flowed over her shoulders, when he repeated a 
charm, which converted her into a rock that still bears her 
name. Then he went joyfully on his way. 1 

So the figure of the weeping Niobe turned into a rock, might 
be seen on Mount Sipylus. 2 So the circles of upright stones, 
set up long ago, on downs and hilltops in England and else- 
where, we cannot tell certainly for what purpose, have sug- 
gested the idea of a ring-dance, and the story has shaped itself, 
perhaps in Puritan times, that such a ring was a party of girls 
who were turned into stone for dancing carols on a Sunday. 

There is a tradition, probably still current in Palestine, of a 
city between Petra and Hebron, whose inhabitants were turned 
into stone for their wickedness. This tradition may have been 
embodied in the Arabian Nights story of the city of fire-wor- 
shippers, who refused to embrace Islam, and were turned into 
stone. Seetzen, the traveller, visited the spot where the re- 
mains of the petrified inhabitants of the wicked city are still 
to be seen, and he found their heads, a number of stony con- 
cretions, lying scattered on the ground. 3 

The myths of footprints stamped into the rock by gods or 
mighty men are not the least curious of this class, not only 
from the power of imagination required to see footprints in 
mere round or long cavities, but also from the unanimity with 
which Egyptians, Greeks, Brahmans, Buddhists, Christians, 
and Moslems have adopted them as relics, each from their 
own point of view. The typical case is the sacred footprint of 
Ceylon, which is a cavity in the rock, 5 feet long by 2 J feet 
wide, at the top of Adam's Peak, made into something like 
a huge footstep by mortar divisions for the toes. Brahmans, 
Buddhists, and Moslems still climb the mountain to do re- 
verence to it ; but to the Brahman it is the footstep of Siva, to 
the Buddhist of the great founder of his religion, Gautama 
Buddha, and to the Moslem it is the spot where Adam stood 
when he was driven from Paradise; while the Gnostics have 

1 W. B. Baker, On Maori Popular Poetry, Trans. Eth. Soc. ; London, 1861, 
p. 49. 

2 Pausanias, i. 21. 

3 Kenrick, ■ Essay on Primaeval History ; ' London, 1846, p. 41, 



held it to be the footprint of leu, and Christians have been 
divided between the conflicting claims of St. Thomas and the 
Eunuch of Candace, Queen of Ethiopia. 1 The followers of 
these different faiths have found holy footprints in many coun- 
tries of the Old World, and the Christians have carried the 
idea into various parts of Europe, where saints have left their 
footmarks ; while, even in America, St. Thomas left his foot- 
steps on the shores of Bahia, as a record of his mythic 
journey. 2 

For all we know, the whole mass of the Old World footprint- 
myths may have had but a single origin, and have travelled 
from one people to another. The story is found, too, in the 
Pacific Islands, for in Samoa two hollow places, near six feet 
long, in a rock, are shown as the footprints of Tiitii, where he 
stood when he pushed the heavens up from the earth. 3 But 
there are reasons which may make us hesitate to consider the 
great Polynesian mythology as independent of Asiatic in- 
fluence. Even in North America, at the edge of the Great 
Pipestone Quarry, where the Great Spirit stood when the 
blood of the buffalos he was devouring ran down upon the 
stone and turned it red, there his footsteps are to be seen 
deeply marked in the rock, in the form of the track of a great 
bird. 4 

There are three kinds of prints in the rock which may have 
served as a foundation for such tales as these. In many parts 
of the world there are fossil footprints of birds and beasts, 
many of huge size. The North American Indians also, whose 
attention is specially alive to the footprints of men and animals, 
very often carve them on rocks, sometimes with figures of the 
animals to which they belong. These footprints are some- 
times so naturally done as to be mistaken for real ones. The 
rock of which Andersson heard in South Africa, M in which the 
tracks of all the different animals indigenous to the country 

1 Tennent, ' Ceylon ;' vol. ii. p. 132. Scherzer, Toy. of the Novara, E. Tr.j Lon- 
don, 1861, etc., vol. i. p. 413. 

2 Southey, ' History of Brazil ;' London, 1822, vol. i. ; Sup. p. xx. 

3 Eev. Or. Turner, ■ Nineteen Years in Polynesia j' London, 1861, p. 245. 

4 Catlin, vol. ii. p. 165, etc. 


are distinctly visible/' 1 is probably such a sculptured rock. 
Thirdly, there are such mere shapeless holes as those to which 
most or all of the Old World myths seem to be attached. 
Now the difficulty in working out the problem of the origin of 
these myths is this, that if the prints are real fossil ones, or 
good sculptures, stories of the beings that made them might 
grow up independently anywhere; but one can hardly fancy 
men in many different places coming separately upon the 
quaint notion of mere hollows, six feet long, being monstrous 
footprints, unless the notion of monstrous footprints being 
found elsewhere were already current. At the foot of the 
page are references to some passages relating to the subject. 2 

It has just been remarked that there is a certain process of 
the human mind through which, among men at a low level of 
education, the use of images leads to gross superstition and 
delusion. No one will deny that there is an evident connexion 
between an object, and an image or picture of it ; but we ci- 
vilized men know well that this connexion is only subjective, 
that is, in the mind of the observer, while there is no objective 
connexion between them. By an objective connexion, I mean 
such a connexion as there is between the bucket in the well 
and the hand that draws it up, — when the hand stops, the 
bucket stops too ; or between a man and his shadow, —when 
the man moves, the shadow moves too; or between an electro- 
magnet and the iron filings near it, — when the current passes 
through the coil, a change takes place in the condition of the 
iron filings. These are, of course, crude examples; but if 
more nicety is necessary, it might be said that the connexion 
is in some degree what a mathematician expresses in saying 
that y is a function of x, when, if x changes, y changes too. 
The connexion between a man and his portrait is not objec- 
tive, for what is done to the man has no effect upon the portrait, 
and vice versa. 

1 C. J. Andersson, Lake Ngami, etc., p. 327. 

2 Lyell, Second Visit to IT. S. ; London, 1850, vol. ii. p. 313. C. Hamilton Smith, 
Nat. Hist, of Human Species ; Edinburgh, 1848, p. 35. Schoolcraft, part iii. p. 74. 
Burton, ' Central Africa ;' vol. i. p. 288. Squier and Davis, Anct. Mon. of Mssi, 
Valley, vol. i. of Smithsonian Contr.; Washington, 1848, p. 293. Kawlinson, 
Herodotus: book ii. 91. iv. 82. 


To an educated European nowadays this sounds like a mere 
truism, so self-evident that it is not necessary to make a formal 
statement of it ; but it may nevertheless be shown that this 
is one of the cases in which the accumulated experience and 
the long course of education of the civilized races, have brought 
them not only to'reverse the opinion of the savage, but com- 
monly to think that their own views are the only ones that 
could naturally arise in the mind of any rational human being. 
It needs no very large acquaintance with the life and ways of 
thought of the savage, to prove that there is to be found all over 
the world, especially among races at a low mental level, a view 
as to this matter which is very different from that which a more 
advanced education has impressed upon us. Man, in a low stage 
of culture, very commonly believes that between the object and 
the image of it there is a real connexion, which does not arise 
from a mere subjective process in the mind of the observer, and 
that it is accordingly possible to communicate an impression to 
the original through the copy. We may follow this erroneous 
belief up into periods of high civilization, its traces becoming 
fainter as education advances, and not only is this confusion of 
subjective and objective relation the prime cause of most of the 
delusions of idolatry, but even so seemingly obscure a subject 
as magic and sorcery may be brought in great measure into 
clear daylight, by looking at it as evolved from this process of 
the mind. 

It is related by an early observer of the natives of Australia, 
that in one of their imitative dances they made use of a grass - 
figure of a kangaroo, and the ceremony was held to give them 
power over the real kangaroos in the bush. 1 In Nortb America, 
when an Algonquin wizard wishes to kill a particular animal, 
he makes a grass or cloth image of it, and hangs it up in his 
wigwam. Then he repeats several times the incantation, " See 
how I shoot," and lets fly an arrow at the image. If he drives 
it in, it is a sign that the animal will be killed next day. Again, 
while an arrow touched by the magical medawin, and after- 
wards fired into the track of an animal, is believed to arrest 
his course, or otherwise affect him, till the hunter can come 
1 Collins, ■ New South Wales ;' London, 1798, vol. i. p. 569. 


up, a similar virtue is believed to be exerted, if but the figure 
of the animal sought be drawn on wood or bark, and after- 
wards submitted to the influences of the magic medicine and 
incantation. 1 In their picture-writings, a man or beast is 
shown to be under magic influence by drawing a line from the 
mouth to the heart, as in the annexed figure, which represents 
a wolf under the charm of the 
magician, and corresponds to the 
incantation sung by the medicine- 
man, "Kun, wolf, your body's 
mine." 2 Writing in the last cen- 
tury, Charlevoix remarks, that 
the Illinois and some other tribes 
make little marmouzets or pup- 
pets to represent those whose 

lives they wish to shorten, and pierce these images to the 
heart. 2 

We find thus among the Indians of North America one of 
the commonest arts of magic practised in Europe in ancient 
and mediaeval times. The art of making an image and melt- 
ing it away, drying it up, shooting at it, sticking pins or thorns 
into it, that some like injury may befall the person it is to re- 
present, is too well known to need detailed description here, 3 
and it is still to be found existing in various parts of the world. 
Thus the Peruvian sorcerers are said still to make rag dolls and 
stick cactus-thorns into them, and to hide them in secret holes 
in houses, or in the wool of beds or cushions, thereby to cripple 
people, or turn them sick or mad. 4 In Borneo the familiar 
European practice still exists, of making a wax figure of the 
enemy to be bewitched, whose body is to waste away as the 
image is gradually melted, 5 as in the story of Margery Jordane's 
waxen image of Henry VI. The Hindoo arts are thus de- 
scribed by the Abbe Dubois : — " They knead earth taken from 
the sixty-four most unclean places, with hair, clippings of hair, 

1 Schoolcraft, part i. pp. 372, 380-382. 2 Charlevoix, vol. vi. p. 88. 

3 Jacoh Grimm, ' Deutsche Mythologie,' Gottingen, 3rd edit.; 1854, p. 1045, etc 
Brand, ■ Popular Antiquities,' Bohn's Series ; London, 1855, vol. iii. p. 10, etc. 

4 Kivero and Tschudi, p. 181. 5 St. John, vol. ii. p. 260. 


bits of leather, etc., and with this they make little figures, on 
the breasts of which they write the name of the enemy ; over 
these they pronounce magical words and mantrams, and conse- 
crate them by sacrifices. No sooner is this done, than the 
grahas, or planets, seize the hated person, and inflict on him a 
thousand ills. They sometimes pierce these figures right 
through with an awl, or cripple them in different ways, with 
the intention of killing or crippling in reality the object of their 
vengeance." 1 Again, the Karens of Burmah model an image 
of a person from the earth of his footprints, and stick it over 
with cottonseeds, intending thereby to strike the person re- 
presented with dumbness. 3 Here we have the making of the 
figure combined with the ancient practice in Germany known 
as the "earth- cutting" (erdschnitt), cutting out the earth or 
turf where the man who is to be destroyed has stood, and 
hanging it in the chimney, that he may perish as his footprint 
dries and shrivels. 3 

In these cases the object in view is to hurt the original 
through the image, but it is also possible to make an image, 
transfer to it the evil spirit of the disease which has attacked 
the person it is to represent, and then send it out like a scape- 
goat into the wilderness. They conjure devils into puppets in 
West Africa; 4 in Siam the doctor makes an image of clay, 
sends his patient's disease into it, and then takes it away to 
the woods and buries it ; 8 while the Tunguz cures his leg or 
his heart by wearing a carved model of the part affected about 
him. 6 

The transfer of life or the qualities of a living being to an 
image may be made by giving it a name, or by the performance 
of a ceremony over it. Thus, at the festival of the Durga Puja, 
the officiating Brahman touches the cheeks, eyes, breast, and fore- 
head of each of the images that have been prepared, and says, 
"Let the soul of Durga long continue in happiness in this image." 

1 Dubois, Moeurs, etc., des Peuples de l'lnde ; Paris, 1825, vol. ii. p. 63. 

2 Mrs. Mason, 'Civilizing Mountain Men;' London, 1862, p. 121. 

3 Grimm, D. M., p. 1047. 

4 Hutchinson, in Tr. Eth. Soc. ; London, 1861, p. 336. 

5 Bowring, 'Siam ;' London, 1857, vol. i. p. 139. 

6 Ravenstein, * The Russians on the Amur ;' London, 1861, p. 351. 


Till life is thus given to them, they may not be worshipped. 1 
But the mere making of the image of a living creature is very 
commonly sufficient to set up at once its connexion with life, 
among races who have not thoroughly passed out of the state 
of mind to which these practices belong. Looking at the matter 
from a very different point of view, and yet with the same 
feeling of a necessary connexion between life and the image 
of the living creature, the Moslem holds that he who makes 
an image in this world will have it set before him on the day 
of judgment, and will be called upon to give it life, but he will 
fail to finish the work he has thus left half done, and will be 
sent to expiate his offence in hell. 

With such illustrations to show how widely spread and 
deeply rooted is the belief that there is a real connexion be- 
tween the object and its image, we can see how almost in- 
evitable it is, that the man at a low stage of education should 
come to confound the image with that which it was made to 
represent. The strong craving of the human mind for a ma- 
terial support to the religious sentiment, has produced idols 
and fetishes over most parts of the world, and at most periods 
in its history ; and while the more intelligent, even among many 
low tribes, have often seen clearly enough that the images were 
mere symbols of superhuman beings, the vulgar have com- 
monly believed that the idols themselves had life and super- 
natural powers. Missionaries have remarked this difference in 
the views of more and less intelligent members of the same 
tribe ; and it is emphatically true of a large part of Christen- 
dom, that the images and pictures, which, to the more in- 
structed, serve merely as a help to realize religious ideas and to 
suggest devotional thoughts, are looked upon by the unedu- 
cated and superstitious crowd, as beings endowed not only with 
a sort of life, but with miraculous influences. 

The line between the cases in which the connexion between 
object and figure is supposed to be real, and those in which it 
is known to be imaginary, is often very difficult to draw. Thus 
idols and figures of saints are beaten and abused for not grant- 
ing the prayers of their worshippers, which may be a mere 
1 Coleman, « The Mythology of the Hindus ;' London, 1832, p. 83. 


expression of spite towards their originals, but then two rival 
gods may be knocked together when their oracles disagree, 
that the one which breaks first may be discarded, and here a 
material connection must certainly be supposed to exist. To 
the most difficult class belong the symbolic sacrifices of models 
of men and animals in Italy and Greece, and the economical 
paper-offerings of Eastern Asia. The Chinese perform the rite 
of burning money and clothes for the use of the dead j but the 
real things are too valuable to be wasted by a thrifty people, 
so paper figures do duty for them. Thus they set burning 
junks adrift as sacrifices to get a favourable wind, but they are 
only paper ones. Perhaps the neatest illustration of this kind 
of offerings, and of the state of mind in which the offerer makes 
them, is to be found in Hue and Gabet's story of the Tibetan 
lamas, who sent horses flying from the mountain-top in a gale 
of wind, for the relief of worn-out pilgrims who could get no 
further on their way. The horses were bits of paper, with a 
horse printed on each, saddled, bridled, and galloping at full 
speed. 1 

Hanging and burning in effigy is a proceeding which, in 
civilized countries at any rate, at last comes fairly out into pure 
symbolism. The idea that the burning of the straw and rag 
body should act upon the body of the original, perhaps hardly 
comes into the mind of any one who assists at such a perform- 
ance. But it is not easy to determine how far this is the case 
with the New Zealanders, whose minds are full of confusion 
between object and image, as we may see by their witchcraft, 
and who also hold strong views about their effigies, and fero- 
ciously revenge an insult to them. One very curious practice 
has come out of their train of thought about this matter. They 
were very fond of wearing round their necks little hideous 
figures of green jade, with their heads very much on one side, 
which are called tiki, and are often to be seen in museums. 
It seems likely that they are merely images of Tiki, the god of 
the dead. They are carried as memorials of dead friends, and 
are sometimes taken off and wept and sung over by a circle of 
natives ; but a tiki commonly belongs, not to the memory of a 

1 Hue and Gabet, Voy. dans la Tartaric, etc.; Paris, 1850, vol. ii. p. 136. 


single individual, but of a succession of deceased persons who 
have worn it in their time, so that it cannot be considered as 
having in it much of the nature of a portait. 1 Some New Zea- 
landers, however, who were lately in London, were asked why 
these tikis usually, if not always, have but three fingers on 
their hands, and they replied that if an image is made of a 
man, and any one should insult it, the affront would have to be 
revenged, and to avoid such a contingency the tikis were made 
with only three fingers, so that, not being any one's image, 
no one was bound to notice what happened to them. 

In medicine, the notion of the real connexion between object 
and image has manifested itself widely in both ancient and 
modern times. Pliny speaks of the folly of the magicians in 
using the catanance (kcltclv ay kt], compulsion) for love-potions, 
because it shrinks in drying into the shape of the claws of a 
dead kite (and so, of course, holds the patient fast) ; but it 
does not strike him that the virtues of the lithospermum or 
" stone-seed " in curing calculus were no doubt deduced in just 
the same way. 2 In more modern times, such notions as these 
were elaborated into the old medical theory known as the 
"Doctrine of Signatures," which supposed that plants and 
minerals indicated by their external characters the diseases for 
which nature had intended them as remedies. Thus the Eu- 
phrasia or eye-bright was, and is, supposed to be good for the 
eyes, on the strength of a black pupil-like spot in its corolla, 
the yellow turmeric was thought good for jaundice, and the 
blood-stone is probably used to this day for stopping blood. 3 
By virtue of a similar association of ideas, the ginseng, which is 
still largely used in China, was also employed by the Indians 
of North America, and in both countries its virtues were de- 
duced from the shape of the root, which is supposed to re- 
semble the human body. Its Iroquois name, abesoutckenza, 
means " a child," while in China it is called jin-seng, that is to 
say, "resemblance of man." 4 

1 Hale, in U. S. Exploring Exp. ; Philadelphia, vol. vi., 1846, p. 23. Eev. W. 
Yate, ' Account of New Zealand ;' London, 1835, p. 151. 

2 Plin., xxvii. 35, 74. 3 Paris, ' Pharmacologia ;' London, 1843, p. 47. 

4 Charlevoix, vol. vi. p. 24. For a similar case, see the ' Penny Cyclopaedia,' 
art. " Atropa Mandragora " (mandrake). 


Such cases as these bring clearly into view the belief in a 
real and material connexion existing between an object and its 
image. By virtue of their resemblance, the two are associated 
in thought, and being thus brought into connexion in the 
mind, it comes to be believed that they are also in connexion 
in the outside world. Now the association of an object with its 
name is made in a very different way, but it nevertheless pro- 
duces a series of very similar results. Except in imitative words, 
the objective resemblance between thing and word, if it ever 
existed, is not discernible now. A word cannot be compared 
to an image or a picture, which, as everybody can see, is like 
what it stands for ; but it is enough that idea and word come 
together by habit in the mind, to make men think that there is 
some real bond of connexion between the thing, and the name 
which belongs to it in their mother-tongue. Professor Lazarus, 
in his ' ' Life of the Soul," tells a good story of a German who 
went to the Paris Exhibition, and remarked to his companion 
what an extraordinary people the French were, " For bread, 
they say du pain!" "Yes," said the other, "and we say 
bread." " To be sure," replied the first, " but it is breoA, you 
know." 1 

As, then, men confuse the word and the idea, in much the 
same way as they confuse the image with that which it repre- 
sents, there springs up a sst of practices and beliefs concerning 
names, much like those relating to images. Thus it is thought 
that the utterance of a word ten miles off has a direct effect on 
the object which that word stands for. A man may be cursed 
or bewitched through his name, as well as through his image. 
You may lay a smock frock on the door-sill, and pronounce 
over it the name of the man you have a spite against, and then 
when you beat that smock, your enemy will feel every blow as 
well as if he were inside it in the flesh. 2 Thus, too, when the 
root of the dead-nettle was plucked to be worn as a charm 
against intermittent fevers, it was necessary to say for what 
purpose, and for whom, and for whose son it was pulled up, 

1 Lazarus, 'Leben der Seele;' Berlin, 1856-7, vol. ii. p. 77. 

2 Kuhn, 'Die Herabkunft des- Feuers und des Gottertranks;' Berlin, 1559, 
p. 227. 


and other magical plants required also a mention of the patient's 
name to make them work. 1 

How the name is held to be part of the very being of the 
man who bears it, so that by it his personality may be carried 
away, and, so to speak, grafted elsewhere, appears in the way 
in which the sorcerer uses it as a means of putting the life of 
his victim into the image upon which he practises. Thus King 
James, in his f Dsemonology/ says that u the devil teacheth how 
to make pictures of wax or clay, that by roasting thereof, the 
persons that they bear the name of may be continually melted 
or dried away by continual sickness." 2 A mediaeval sermon 
speaks of baptizing a "wax" to bewitch with; and in the 
eleventh century, certain Jews, it was believed, made a waxen 
image of Bishop Eberhard, set about with tapers, bribed a clerk 
to baptize it, and set fire to it on that sabbath, the which 
image burning away at the middle, the bishop fell grievously 
sick and died. 3 

A similar train of thought shows itself in the belief, that the 
utterance of the name of a deity gives to man a means of direct 
communication with the being who owns it, or even places in 
his hands the supernatural power of that being, to be used at 
his will. The Moslems hold that the u great name " of God 
(not Allah, which is a mere epithet), is known only to prophets 
and apostles, who, by pronouncing it, can transport themselves 
from place to place at will, can kill the living, raise the dead, 
and do any other miracle. 4 

The concealment of the name of the tutelary deity of Home, 
for divulging which Valerius Soranus is said to have paid the 
penalty of death, is a case in point. As to the reason of its being 
kept a secret, Pliny says that Verrius Flaccus quotes authors 
whom he thinks trustworthy, to the effect that when the Eo- 
mans laid siege to a town, the first step was for the priests to 
summon the god under whose guardianship the place was, and 
to offer him the same or a greater place or worship among the 
Eomans. This practice, Pliny adds, still remains in the pon- 
tifical discipline, and it is certainly for this reason that it has 

1 Plin., xxii. 16, 24 ; xxiii. 54. 3 Grimm, D. M., p. 1047. 

2 Brand, vol. iii. p. 10. 4 Lane, Mod. Eg., vol. i. p. 361. 


been kept secret under the protection of what god Rome itself 
has been, lest its enemies should use a like proceeding. 1 

Moreover, as man puts himself into communication with 
spirits through their names, so they know him through his 
name. In Borneo, they will change the name of a sickly child 
to deceive the evil spirits that have been tormenting it. 2 In 
South America, among the Abipones and Lenguas, when a man 
died, his family and neighbours would change their own names 3 
to cheat Death when he should come to look for them. It is 
perhaps a falling off from these extreme instances of the inti- 
macy with which name and object have grown together in the 
savage mind, to cite the practice of exchanging names in evi- 
dence of identity of mind and feeling, which was found in the 
West Indies at the time of Columbus, 4 and in the South Seas 
by Captain Cook, who was called Oree, while his friend Oree 
went by the name of Cookee. 5 

But Cadwallader Colden's account of his new name, is ad- 
mirable evidence of what there is in a name in the mind of the 
savage. " The first Time I was among the Mohawks, I had this 
Compliment from one of their old Sachems, which he did, by 
giving me his own Name, Gayenderongue. He had been a 
notable Warrior ; and he told me, that now I had a Right to 
assume to myself all the Acts of Valour he had performed, and 
that now my Name would echo from Hill to Hill over all the 
Five Nations." When Colden went back into the same part ten 
or twelve years later, he found that he was still known by the 
name he had thus received, and that the old chief had taken 
another. 6 

Taking a still wider stretch, the power of association grasps 
not only the spoken word, but its written representative. It 

1 Plin., xxviii. 4. Plut., Q. It. Macrob. Sat., iii. 9. See Bayle, art. " Soranus." 

2 St. John, • Borneo,' vol. i. p. 197. 

3 Dobrizhoffer, 'The Abipones,' E. Tr. ; London, 1822, vol. ii. p. 273. Southey, 
* History of Brazil ;' London, 1819, vol. iii. p. 394. 

4 • Letters of Columbus ' (Hakluyt Soc.) ; London, 1847, p. 217. 

5 Cook, First Toy. H., vol. ii. p. 251. Second Voyage j London, 2nd edit., 
1777, vol. i. p. 167. 

6 Colden, Hist, of the Five Indian Nations of Canada j London, 1747, part i. 
p. 10. 


has been seen how the Hindoo sorcerers wrote the name of 
their victim on the breast of the image made to personate him. 
A Chinese physician, if he has not got the drug he requires 
for his patient, will write the prescription on a piece of paper, 
and let the sick man swallow its ashes, or an infusion of the 
writing, in water. 1 This practice is no doubt very old, and 
may even descend from the time when the picture-element in 
Chinese writing, now almost effaced, was still clearly distin- 
guishable, so that the patient would at least have the satisfac- 
tion of eating a picture, not a mere written word. Whether 
the Moslems got the idea from them or not, I do not know, 
but among them a verse of the Koran washed off into water 
and drunk, or even water from a cup in which it is engraved, 
is an efficacious remedy. 2 Here the connexion between the 
two ends of the chain is very remote indeed. The arbitrary 
characters, which represent the sound of the word, which re- 
presents the idea, have to do duty for the idea itself. The 
example is a striking one, and will serve to measure the 
strength of the tendency of the uneducated mind to give an 
outward material reality to its own inward processes. 

This confusion of objective with subjective connexion, which 
shows itself so uniform in principle, though so various in details, 
in the practices upon images and names, done with a view of 
acting through them on their originals or their owners, may be 
applied to explain one branch after another of the arts of the 
sorcerer and diviner, till it almost seems as though we were 
coming near the end of his list, and might set down practices 
not based on this mental process, as exceptions to a general 

When a lock of hair is cut off as a memorial, the subjective 
connexion between it and its former owner, is not severed. 
In the mind of the friend who treasures it up, it recalls thoughts 
of his presence, it is still something belonging to him. We 
know, however, that the objective connexion was cut by the 
scissors, and that what is done to that hair afterwards, is not 

1 Davis, vol. ii. p. 215. 

2 Lane, Mod. Eg., vol. i. p. 347-8. Petherick, Egypt, etc. j Edinburgh, 1861, 
p. 221. 


felt by the head on which it grew. But this is exactly what 
the savage has not come to know. He feels that the subjective 
bond is unbroken in his own mind, and he believes that the 
objective bond, which his mind never gets clearly separate from 
it, is unbroken too. Therefore, in the remotest parts of the 
world, the sorcerer gets clippings of the hair of his enemy, 
parings of his nails, leavings of his food, and practises upon 
them, that their former possessor may fall sick and die. This 
is why South Sea Island chiefs had servants always following 
them with spittoons, that the spittle might be buried in some 
secret place, where no sorcerer could find it, and why even 
brothers and sisters had their food in separate baskets. In the 
island of Tanna, in the New Hebrides, there was a colony of 
disease-makers who lived by their art. They collected any 
nahak or rubbish that had belonged to any one, such as the 
skin of a banana he had eaten, wrapped it in a leaf like a cigar, 
and burnt it slowly at one end. As it. burnt, the owner got 
worse and worse, and if it was burnt to the end, he died. When 
a man fell ill, he knew that some sorcerer was burning his 
rubbish, and shell-trumpets, which could be heard for miles, 
were blown to signal to the sorcerers to stop, and wait for the 
presents which would be sent next morning. Night after night, 
Mr. Turner used to hear the melancholy too-tooing of the 
shells, entreating the wizards to stop plaguing their victims. 
And when a disease-maker fell sick himself, he believed that 
some one was burning his rubbish, and had his shells too blown 
for mercy. 1 It is not needful to give another description after 
this, the process is so perfectly the same in principle wherever 
it is found, all over Polynesia, 2 in Africa, 3 in India, 4 in North 
and South America, 5 in Australia. 6 It is alive to this day in 
Italy, where a man does not like to trust a lock of his hair in 
the hands of any one, lest he should be bewitched or enamoured 
against his will. 7 

1 Turner, * Polynesia,' pp. 18, 89, 424. 

2 Polack, ' Manners and Customs of the New Zealanders ;' London, 1840, vol. 
i. p. 282. Ellis, vol. ii. p. 228. Williams, « Fiji,' vol. i. p. 249. Purchas, vol. ii. 
p. 1652, etc. 3 Casalis, p. 276. 4 Roberts, Or. Illustr. p. 470. 

5 Klemm, C. G., vol. ii. p. 168. Fitz Roy, in Tr. Eth. Soc. j London, 1861, p. 5. 

6 Stanbridge, id., p. 229. 

7 Story, c Roba di Roma ;' London, 1863, vol. ii. p. 342. 


One of the best accounts we have of the art of procuring 
death by sorcery, is given in Sir James Emerson Tennent's 
great work on Ceylon. It is not that there is much that is 
peculiar in the processes it describes, but just the contrary ; its 
importance lies in its presenting, among a somewhat isolated 
race, a system of sorcery, which is quite a little museum of the 
arts practised among the most dissimilar tribes in the remotest 
regions of the world. The account is as follows : — " The vidahu 
stated to the magistrate that a general belief existed among 
the Tamils [of Ceylon] in the fatal effects of a ceremony, per- 
formed with the skull of a child, with the design of producing 
the death of an individual against whom the incantation is 
directed. The skull of a male child, and particularly of a first- 
born, is preferred, and the effects are regarded as more certain 
if it be killed expressly for the occasion ; but for ordinary pur- 
poses, the head of one who had died a natural death is pre- 
sumed to be sufficient. The form of the ceremony is to draw 
certain figures and cabalistic signs upon the skull, after it has 
been scraped and denuded of the flesh j adding the name of the 
individual upon whom the charm is to take effect. A paste is 
then prepared, composed of sand from the footprints of the 
intended victim, and a portion of his hair moistened with his 
saliva, and this, being spread upon a leaden plate, is taken, 
together with the skull, to the graveyard of the village, where 
for forty nights the evil spirits are invoked to destroy the per- 
son so denounced. The universal belief of the natives is, that 
as the ceremony proceeds, and the paste dries up on the leaden 
plate, the sufferer will waste away and decline, and that death, 
as an inevitable consequence, must follow." 1 Here we have 
at once the name, the earth-cutting, the hair and saliva, the 
cursing, and the drying up. The use of the skull lies in its 
association with death, and we shall presently find it used in 
the same way in a very different place. 

Even the spirits of the dead may be acted on through the 

remains of their bodies. Though the savage commonly holds 

that after death the soul goes its own way, for the most part 

independently of the body to which it once belonged, yet in his 

1 Tennent, ' Ceylon,' vol. ii. p. 545. 



mind the soul and the body of his enemy or his friend are inse- 
parably associated, and thus he comes to hold, in his inconsis- 
tent way, that a bond of connexion must after all survive be- 
tween them. Therefore, the African fastens the jaw of his 
slain enemy to a tabor or a horn, and his skull to the big drum, 
that every crash and blast may send a thrill of agony through 
the ghost of their dead owner. 1 

The connexion between a cut lock of hair and its former 
owner is, in the mind at least, much closer than is necessary 
for these purposes. As has been seen, the remains of a per- 
son's food are sufficient to bewitch^ him by. In a witchcraft 
case in the seventeenth century, the supposed sorceress con- 
fessed that ' ' there was a glove of the said Lord Henry buried in 
the ground, and as that glove did rot and waste, so did the 
liver of the said lord rot and waste." 2 Indeed, any association 
of ideas in a man's mind, the vaguest similarity of form or po- 
sition, even a mere coincidence in time, is sufficient to enable 
the magician to work from association in his own mind, to asso- 
ciation in the material world. Nor is there any essential dif- 
ference in the process, whether his art is that of the diviner or 
of the sorcerer, that is, whether his object is merely to foretell 
something that will happen to a person, or actually to make 
that something happen; or if he is only concerned with the 
searching out of the hidden past, the process remains much the 
same, the intention only is different. 

Out of the endless store of examples, I will do no more than 
take a few typical cases. They hang up charms in the Pacific 
Islands to keep thieves and trespassers out of plantations ; a 
few cocoa-nut leaves, plaited into the form of a shark, will 
cause the thief who disregards it to be eaten by a real one ; 
two sticks, set one across the other, will send a pain right across 
his body, and the very sight of these tabus will send thieves 
and trespassers off in terror. 3 In Kamchatka, when something 
had been stolen, and the thief could not be discovered, they 
would throw nerves or sinews into the fire, that as they shrank 
and wriggled with the heat, the like might happen to the body 

1 Komer, ' Guinea ;' p. 112. Klemm, C. Gr., toI. iii. p. 352. 

2 Brand, vol. Hi. p. 29. 3 Turner, p. 294. 


of the thief. 1 In New Zealand, when a male child had been 
baptized in the native manner, and had received its name, they 
thrust small pebbles, the size of a large pin's head, down its 
throat, to make its heart callous, hard, and incapable of pity. 2 
The Eed Indian hunter wears ornaments of the claws of the 
grizzly bear, that he may be endowed with its courage and fero- 
city, 3 a simpler charm than that whereby the magicians made 
men invincible in Pliny's time, in which the head and tail of a 
dragon, marrow of a lion and hair from his forehead, foam of a 
victorious racehorse, and claws of a dog, were bound together 
in a piece of deerskin, with alternate sinews of a deer and a 
gazelle. 4 Many of the food-prejudices of savage races depend 
on the belief which belongs to this class of superstitions, that 
the qualities of the eaten pass into the eater. Thus, among the 
Dayaks, young men sometimes abstain from the flesh of deer, 
lest it should make them timid, and before a pig-hunt they 
avoid oil, lest the game should slip through their fingers, 5 and 
in the same way the flesh of slow-going and cowardly animals 
is not to be eaten by the warriors of South America ; but they 
love the meat of tigers, stags, and boars, for courage and speed. 6 
An English merchant in Shanghai, at the time of the Taeping 
attack, met his Chinese servant carrying home a heart, and 
asked him what he had got there. He said it was the heart of 
a rebel, and that he was going to take it home and eat it to 
make him brave. 

When a Maori war -party is to start, the priests set up sticks in 
the ground to represent the warriors, and he whose stick is blown 
down is to fall in the battle. 7 In the Fiji Islands, the diviner 
will shake a bunch of dry cocoa-nuts to see whether a sick 
child will die ; if all fall off, it will recover ; if any remain on, it 
will die. He will spin a cocoa-nut, and decide a question ac- 
cording to where the eye of the nut looks towards when at rest 
again, or he will sit on the ground and take omens from his 
legs ; if the right leg trembles first, it is good ; if the left, it is 

1 Kracheninnikow, Descr. du Kamtchatka; Paris, 1768, p. 22. Klemm, C. G., 
vol. ii. p. 297. 2 Yate, p. 83. 3 Schoolcraft, part iii. p. 69. 

4 Plin., xxix. 20. 5 St, John, vol. i. p. 176. 

6 Dobrizhoffer, vol. i. p. 258. 7 Polack, vol. i. p. 270. 



evil ; or lie will decide by whether a leaf tastes sweet or bitter, 
or whether he bites it clean through at once, or whether drops 
of water will run down his arm to the wrist and give a good 
answer, or fall off by the way and give a bad one. 1 In British 
Guiana, when young children are betrothed, trees are planted 
by the respective parties in witness of the contract, and if either 
tree should happen to wither, the child it belongs to is sure to 
die. 2 A slightly different idea appears north of the Isthmus, 
in the Central American tale, where the two brothers, starting 
on their dangerous journey to the land of Xibalba, where their 
father had perished, plant each a cane in the middle of their 
grandmother's house, that she may know by its nourishing or 
withering whether they are alive or dead. 3 And again, to take 
stories from the Old World, when Devasmita would not let 
Guhasena leave her to go with his merchandise to the land of 
Cathay, Siva appeared to them in a dream, and gave to each a 
red lotus that would fade if the other were unfaithful ; 4 and so, 
in the German tale, when the two daughters of Queen Wilo- 
witte were turned into flowers, the two princes who were their 
lovers had each a sprig of his mistress's flower, that was to stay 
fresh while their love was true. 5 

On this principle of association, it is easy to understand how, 
in the Old World, the names of the heavenly bodies, and their 
position at the time of a man's birth, should have to do with 
his character and fate ; while, in the astrology of the Aztecs, 
the astronomical signs have a similar connexion with the parts 
of the human body, so that the sign of the Skull has to do with 
the head, and the sign of the Flint with the teeth. 6 Why fish 
may be caught in most plenty when the Sun is in the sign of 
Pisces, is as clear as the reason why trees are to be felled, or 
vegetables gathered, or manure used, while the moon is on the 
wane, for these things have to fall, or be consumed, or rot; 

1 Williams, ■ Fiji,' p. 228. 

2 Rev. J. H. Bernau, ' Missionary Labours in British Guiana ;' London, 1847, 
p. 59. 3 Brasseur, ' Popol Yuh ;' Paris, 1861, p. 141. 

4 Somadeva Bhatta, vol. i. p. 139. 

5 J. and W. Grimm, ' Kinder- und Hausmarchen ; ' Gottingen, 1857-6, vol. iii. 
p. 328. 6 Kingsborough, Vatican MS., vol. ii. pi. 75 ; vols. v. and vi. Expl. 


while, on the other hand, grafts are to be set while the moon is 
waxing/ and it is only lucky to begin an undertaking when the 
moon is on the increase, as has been held even in modern times. 
It is as clear why the Qhinese doctor should administer the 
heads, middles, and roots of plants, as medicine for the heads, 
bodies, and legs of his patients respectively, and why passages 
in books looked at while some thought is in the reader's mind, 
should be taken as omens, from Western Europe to Eastern 
Asia, in old times and new. When it is borne in mind that 
the Tahitians ascribe their internal pains to demons who are 
inside them, tying their intestines in knots, it becomes easy to 
understand why the Laplanders, under certain circumstances, 
object to knots being tied in clothes, and so on from one phase 
to another of witchcraft and superstition. 

It would be quite intelligible on this principle, that the sor- 
cerer should think it possible to impress his own mind upon the 
outer world, even without any external link of communication. 
The mere presence of the thought in his mind might be enough 
to cause, as it were by reflection, a corresponding reality. 
He is usually found, however, working his will by some mate- 
rial means, or at least by an utterance of it into the world. 
This seems to be the case with the rainmaker, or weather- 
changer, wherever he is met with, that is to say, among most 
races of man below the highest culture. Sometimes he works 
by clear association of ideas, as the Samoan rainmakers with 
their sacred stone, which they wet when they want rain, and 
put to the fire to dry when they want to dry the weather, 2 or 
the Lapland wizards, with the winds they used to sell to our 
sea-captains in a knotted cord, to be let out by untying it knot 
by knot. In the notable practice of killing an enemy by pro- 
phesying that he will die, or by uttering a wish that he may, the 
outward act of speech comes between the thought and the 
reality, but perhaps a mere unspoken wish may be held suf- 
ficient. This kind of bewitching is found over almost as wide 
a range as the practices of the rainmaker, and extends like them 
into the upper regions of our race. 

1 Plin., ix. 35 j xviii. 75 j xvii. 24. 2 Turner, p. 347, and see p. 428. 


" There dwalt a weaver in Moffat toun, 
That said the minister wad dee sune ; 
The minister dee'd ; and the fouk o' the toun, 
They brant the weaver wi' the wudd o' his lume, 
And ca'd it weel-wared on the warlock loon." l 

As has been so often said, these two arts are encouraged by 
the unfailing test of success, if they have but time enough, 
and the latter justifies itself by killing the patient through, his 
own imagination. When he hears that he has been c ' wished," 
he goes home and takes to his bed at once. It is impossible 
to realize the state of mind into which, the continual terror of 
witchcraft brings the savage. It is held by many tribes to be 
the necessary cause of death. Over great part of Africa, in 
South America and Polynesia, when a man dies, the question 
is at once, " who killed him?" and the soothsayer is resorted 
to to find the murderer, that the dead man may be avenged. 
The Abipones held that there was no such thing as natural 
death, and that if it were not for the magicians and the Spa- 
niards, no man would die unless he were killed. The notion 
that, after all, a man might perhaps die of himself, comes out 
curiously in the address of an old Australian to the corpse at a 
funeral, "If thou comest to the other black-fellows and they 
ask thee who killed thee, answer, ' No one, but I died/ " 3 

There are of course branches of the savage wizard's art that 
are not connected with the mental process to which so many 
of his practices may be referred. He is often a doctor with 
some skill in surgery and medicine, and an expert juggler ; and 
often, though knavery is not the basis of his profession, a cun- 
ning knave. One of the most notable superstitions of the 
human race, high and low, is the belief in the Evil Eye. 
Knowing, as we all do, the strange power which one mind has 
of working upon another through the eye, a power which is not 
the less certain for being wholly unexplained, it seems not un- 
reasonable to suppose that the belief in the mysterious influ- 
ences of the Evil Eye flows from the knowledge of what the 
eye can do as an instrument of the will, while experience has 

1 K. Chambers, * Popular Khymes of Scotland ;' Edinburgh, 1826, p. 23. 

2 Lang, ■ Queensland j ? London, 1861, p. 360. 


not yet set such limits as we recognize to the range of its ac- 
tion. The horror which savages so often have of being looked 
full in the face, is quite consistent with this feeling. You may- 
look at him or his, but you must not stare, and above all, you 
must not look him full in the face, that is to say, you must not 
do just what the stronger mind does when it uses the eye as an 
instrument to force its will upon the weaker. 

It is clear that the superstitions which have been cursorily 
described in this chapter, are no mere casual extravagances of 
the human mind. The way in which the magic arts have taken 
to themselves the verb to " do," as claiming to be " doing " 
par excellence, sometimes gives us an opportunity of testing 
their importance in the popular mind. As in Madagascar the 
sorcerers and diviners of Matitanana go by the name of mpiasa, 
that is " workers," 1 so words in the languages of our Aryan 
race show a like transition. In Sanskrit, magic has possessed 
itself of a whole family of words derived from Icr, to " do," 
Jcrtya, sorcery, krtvan, enchanting, (literally, working), kdr- 
mana, enchantment (from harman, a deed, work), and so on, 
while Latin facere has produced in the Romance languages, 
Italian fattura, enchantment, old French faiture, Portuguese 
feitigo (whence fetish) , and a dozen more, and Grimm holds that 
the most probable derivation of zauber, Old High German 
zoupar, is from zouwan, Gothic taujan, to do, 2 and other like 
etymologies are to be found. The belief and practices to 
which such words refer form a compact and organic whole, 
mostly developed from a state of mind in which subjective and 
objective connexions are not yet clearly separated. What then 
does this mass of evidence show from the ethnologist's point of 
view ; what is the position of sorcery in the history of man- 

When Dr. Martius, the Bavarian traveller, was lying one 
night in his hammock in an Indian hut in South America, and 
all the inhabitants seemed to be asleep, each family in its own 
place, his reflexions were interrupted by a strange sight. "In a 

1 Ellis, ' Madagascar ; ' vol. i. p. 73. 

2 Pictet, ' Origines ;' part ii. p. 641. Diez, Worterb. s. v. " faltizio. ' Grimm, 
D. M. p. 984, etc. See Diefenbach, Vergl. Worterb. i. 12 ; ii. 659. 


dark corner there arose an old woman, naked, covered with dnst 
and ashes, a miserable picture of hunger and wretchedness ; it 
was the slave of my hosts, a captive taken from another tribe. 
She crept cautiously to the hearth and blew up the fire, brought 
out some herbs and bits of human hair, murmured some- 
thing in an earnest tone, and grinned and gesticulated strangely 
towards the children of her masters. She scratched a skull, 
threw herbs and hair rolled into balls into the fire, and so on. 
For a long while I could not conceive what all this meant, till 
at last springing from my hammock and coming close to her, I 
saw by her terror and the imploring gesture she made to me 
not to betray her, that she was practising magic arts to destroy 
the children of her enemies and oppressors." "This," he 
continues, "was not the first example of sorcery I had met with 
among the Indians. When I considered what delusions and 
darkness must have been working in the human mind before 
man could come to fear and invoke dark unknown powers for 
another's hurt, — when I considered that so complex a super- 
stition was but the remnant of an originally -pure worship of 
nature, and what a chain of complications must have preceded 
such a degradation," etc. etc. 1 

I cannot but think that Dr. Martius's deduction is the abso- 
lute reverse of the truth. Looking at the practices of sorcery 
among the lower races as a whole, they have not the appear- 
ance of mutilated and misunderstood fragments of a higher 
system of belief and knowledge. Among savage tribes we 
find families of customs and superstitions in great part trace- 
able to the same principle, the confusion of imagination and 
reality, of subjective and objective, of the mind and the outer 
world. Among the higher races we find indeed many of the 
same customs, but they are scattered, practised by the vulgar 
with little notion of their meaning, looked down upon with 
contempt by the more instructed, or explained as mystic sym- 
bolisms, and at last dropped off one by one as the world grows 
wiser. There is a curious handful of plain savage superstitions 
among the rules to which the Roman Flamen Dialis had to 

1 Dr. v. Marti us, ' Vergangenheit und Zukunft der Amerikanischen Mensch- 
heit;' 1839. 


conform. He was not only prohibited from touching a dog, a 
she-goat, raw meat, beans, and ivy, but he might not even 
name them, he might not have a knot tied in his clothes, and 
the parings of his nails and the clippings of his hair were col- 
lected and buried under a lucky tree. 1 So little difference does 
the mere course of time make in such things as these, that a 
modern missionary to a savage tribe may learn to understand 
them better than the Romans who practised them two thousand 
years ago. 

It is quite true that there are anomalies among the supersti- 
tious practices of the lower races, proceedings of which the 
meaning is not clear, signs of the breaking-down or stiffening 
into formalism of beliefs carried down by tradition to a distance 
from their source ; and besides, the rites of an old religion, car- 
ried down through a new one, may mix with such practices as 
have been described here, while the adherents of one religion 
are apt to ascribe to magic the beliefs and wonders of another, 
as the Christians held Odin, and the Romans Moses, to have 
been mighty enchanters of ancient times. But when we see 
the whole system of sorcery and divination comparatively com- 
pact and intelligible among savage tribes, less compact and 
less intelligible among the lower civilized races, and still less 
among ourselves, there seems reason to think that such imper- 
fection and inconsistency as are to be found among this class 
of superstitions in the lower levels of our race, are signs of a 
degeneration (so to speak) from a system of error that was more 
perfect and harmonious in a yet lower condition of mankind, 
when man had a less clear view of the difference between what 
was in him and what was out of him, than the lowest savages 
we have ever studied, — when his life was more like a long 
dream than even the life that the Puris are leading at this day, 
deep in the forests of South America. 

There is a remarkable peculiarity by which the sorcery of 
the savage seems to repudiate the notion of its having come 
down from something higher, and to date itself from the child- 
hood of the human race. There is one musical instrument (if 
the name may be allowed to it) which we give over to young 
1 Aulus Gellius, 'JNootes Atticae,' x. 15. Plut., Q. E., cix. etc. 


children, who indeed thoroughly appreciate and enjoy it, — the 


" Behold the child, by Nature's kindly law, 
Pleased with a rattle, tickled with a straw." 

When the dignity of manhood is to be conferred on a Sia- 
mese prince by cutting his hair and giving him a new dress, 
they shake a rattle before him as he goes, to show that till the 
ceremony is performed, he is still a child. As if to keep us 
continually in mind of his place in history, the savage magician 
clings with wonderful pertinacity to the same instrument. It 
is a bunch of hoofs tied together, a blown bladder with peas in 
it, or, more often than anything else, a calabash with stones or 
shells or bones inside. It is his great instrument in curing the 
sick, the accompaniment of his medicine- songs, and the symbol 
of his profession, among the Red Indians, among the South 
American tribes, and in Africa. For the magician's work, it 
holds its own against far higher instruments, the whistles and 
pipes of the American, and even the comparatively high-class 
flutes, harmonicons, and stringed instruments of the negro. 1 
Next above the rattle in the scale of musical instruments is the 
drum, and it too has been to a great extent adopted by the 
sorcerer, and, often painted with magic figures, it is an impor- 
tant implement to him in Lapland, in Siberia, among some 
North American and some South American tribes. 2 The 
clinging together of savage sorcery with these childish instru- 
ments, is in full consistency with the theory that both belong to 
the infancy of mankind. With less truth to nature and his- 
tory, the modern spirit-rapper, though his bringing up the 
spirits of the dead by doing hocus-pocus under a table or in a 
dark room is so like the proceedings of the African mganga 
or the Red Indian medicine-man, has cast off the proper ac- 
companiments of his trade, and juggles with fiddles and ac- 

1 Catlin, vol. i. p. 39, 109. Schoolcraft, part i. p. 310 ; part ii. p. 179. Char- 
levoix, vol. vi. p. 187. Burton, ' Central Africa,' vol. i. p. 44 ; vol. ii. p. 295. 
Purchas, vol. iv. p. 1339, 1520, etc. etc. Dobrizhoffer, vol. ii. p. 72. Klemm, 
C.Gr., vol. ii. p. 169, 171-2. See Strabo, xv. 1, 22. 

2 Eegnard, ' Lapland,' in Pinkerton, vol. i. p. 168, 180. Eavenstein, p. 93. 
Molina, Hist, of Chile, E. Tr. ; London, 1809, vol. ii. p. 106, etc. etc. 


The question whether there is any historical connexion 
among the superstitious practices of the lower races, is distinct 
from that of their development from the human mind. On the 
whole, the similarity that runs through the sorcerer's art in the 
most remote countries, not only in principle, but so often in 
details, as for instance in the wide prevalence of the practice 
of bewitching by locks of hair and rubbish which once be- 
longed to the victim, often favours the view that these coinci- 
dences are not independent growths from the same principle, 
but practices which have spread from one geographical source. 
I have put together in another place some accounts of one of 
the most widely spread phenomena of sorcery, the pretended 
extraction of bits of wood, stone, hair, and such things, from 
the bodies of the sick, which is based upon the belief that 
disease is caused by such objects having been conjured into 
them. The value of this belief to the ethnologist depends 
much on its being difficult to explain it, and therefore also 
difficult to look upon it as having often arisen independently in 
the human mind. But from the intelligible, and to a particular 
state of mind one might almost say reasonable, beliefs and 
practices which have been described in the present chapter, it 
seems hardly prudent to draw inferences as to the descent and 
communication of the races among whom they are found, at 
least while the ethnological argument from beliefs and customs 
is still in its infancy. 

To turn now to a different subject, the same state of mind 
which has had so large a share in the development of sorcery, 
has also manifested itself in a very remarkable series of obser- 
vances regarding spoken words, prohibiting the mention of the 
names of people, or even sometimes of animals and things. A 
man will not utter his own name ; husband and wife will not 
utter one another's names ; the son or daughter-in-law will not 
mention the name of the father or mother-in-law, and vice versa; 
the names of chiefs may not be uttered, nor the names of cer- 
tain other persons, nor of superhuman beings, nor of animals 
and things to which supernatural powers are ascribed. These 
various prohibitions are not found all together, but one tribe 
may hold to several of them. A few details will suffice to give 
an idea of the extent and variety of this series of superstitions. 


The intense aversion which savages have from uttering their 
own names, has often been noticed by travellers. Thus Captain 
Mayne says of the Indians of British Columbia, that (i one of 
their strangest prejudices, which appears to pervade all tribes 
alike, is a dislike to telling their names — thus you never get a 
man's right name from himself; but they will tell each other's 
names without hesitation." 1 So Dobrizhoffer says that the 
Abipones of South America think it a sin to utter their own 
names, and when a man was asked his name, he would nudge 
his neighbour to answer for him, 2 and in like manner, the Fijians 
and the Sumatrans are described as looking to a friend to help 
them out of the difficulty, when this indiscreet question is put 
to them. 3 

Nor does the dislike to mentioning ordinary personal names 
always stop at this limit. Among the Algonquin tribes, 
children are generally named by the old woman of the family, 
usually with reference to some dream, but this real name is 
kept mysteriously secret, and what usually passes for the name 
is a mere nickname, such as " Little Fox," or " Red-Head." 
The real name is hardly ever revealed even by the grave-post, 
but the totem or symbol of the clan is held sufficient. The 
true name of La Belle Sauvage was not Pocahontas, " her true 
name was Matokes, which they concealed from the English, in 
a superstitious fear of hurt by the English, if her name was 
known." 4 "It is next to impossible to induce an Indian to 
utter personal names ; the utmost he will do, if a person im- 
plicated is present, is to move his lips, without speaking, in 
the direction of the person." Schoolcraft saw an Indian in a 
court of justice, pressed to identify a man who was there, but 
all they could get him to do was to push his lips towards him. 5 
So Mr. Backhouse describes how a native woman of Van Die- 
men's Land threw sticks at a friendly Englishman, who in 
his ignorance of native manners, mentioned her son, who was 
at school at Newtown. 6 

1 Mayne, * British Columbia,' etc. ; London, 1862, p. 278. 

2 Dobrizhoffer, vol. ii. p. 444. 

3 Seemann, ■ Viti ; ' London, 1862, p. 190. Marsden, Hist, of Sumatra ; London, 
1811, p. 286. * Schoolcraft, part ii. p. 65. 

5 Id. p. 433. See also Burton, ' City of the Saints/ p. 141. 

6 Backhouse, 'Australia,' p. 93>. 


In various parts of the world, a variety of remarkable customs 
are observed between men and women, and their fathers- and 
mothers-in-law. These will be noticed elsewhere, but it is 
necessary to mention here, that among the Dayaks of Borneo, 
a man must not pronounce the name of his father-in-law ; l 
among the Omahas of North America, the father- and mother- 
in-law do not speak to their son-in-law, or mention his name, 3 
nor do they call him or he them by name among the Dacotahs. 3 
Again, the wife is in some places prohibited from mentioning 
her husband's name. "A Hindoo wife is never, under any 
circumstances, to mention the name of her husband. ( He/ 
' The Master/ ' Swamy/.etc, are titles she uses when speaking 
of, or to her lord. In no way can one of the sex annoy another 
more intensely and bitterly, than by charging her with having 
mentioned her husband's name. It is a crime not easily for- 
given/' 4 In East Africa, among the Barea, the wife never 
utters the name of her husband, or eats in his presence, and 
even among the Beni Amer, where the women have extensive 
privileges and great social power, the wife is still not allowed 
to eat in the husband's presence, and only mentions his name 
before strangers. 5 The Kafir custom prohibits wives from 
speaking the names of relatives of their husbands and fathers- 
in-law, In Australia, among the names which in some tribes 
must not be spoken, are those of a father- or mother-in-law, of 
a son-in-law, and of persons in some kind of connexion by 
marriage. Another of the Australian prohibitions is not only 
very curious, but is curious as having apparently no analogue 
elsewhere. Among certain tribes in the Murray River district, 
the youths undergo, instead of circumcision, an operation called 
wharepin, and afterwards, the natives who have officiated, and 
those who have been operated upon, though they may meet 
and talk, must never mention one another's names, nor must 
the name of one even be spoken by a third person in the pre- 
sence of the other. 6 

1 St. John, vol. i. p. 51. 2 Long's Exp., vol. i. p. 253. 

3 Schoolcraft, part ii. p. 1S6. 

4 F. de W. Ward, « India and the Hindoos ; ' London, 1853, p. 189. 

6 Munzinger, ' Ostafrikanische Studien ; ' Schaffhausen, 1864, pp. 325, 526. 
6 Eyre, vol. ii. pp. 336-9. The wharepin is a ceremonial depilation. 


It is especially in Eastern Asia and Polynesia, that we find 
the names of kings and chiefs held as sacred, and not to be 
lightly spoken. In Siarn, the king mnst be spoken of by some 
epithet ; l in India and Burmah, the royal name is avoided as 
something sacred and mysterious ; and in Polynesia, the pro- 
hibition to mention chiefs' names has even impressed itself 
deeply in the language of the islands where it prevails. 2 

But it is among the most distant and various races that we 
find one class of names avoided with mysterious horror, the 
names of the dead. In North America, the dead are to be 
alluded to, not mentioned by name, especially in the presence 
of a relative. 3 In South America, he must be mentioned among 
the Abipones as " the man who does not now exist," or some 
such periphrasis ; * and the Fuegians have a horror of any kind 
of allusion to their dead friends, and when a child asks for its 
dead father or mother, they will say, " Silence ! don't speak bad 
words." 5 The Samoied only speaks of the dead by allusion, 
for it would disquiet them to utter their names. 6 The Austra- 
lians, like the North Americans, will set up the pictured crest 
or symbol of the dead man's clan, but his name is not to be 
spoken. Dr. Lang tried to get from an Australian the name 
of a native who had been killed. " He told me who the lad's 
father was, who was his brother, what he was like, how he 
walked when he was alive, how he held the tomahawk in his 
left hand instead of his right (for he had been left-hauded), 
and with whom he usually associated ; but the dreaded name 
never escaped his lips ; and I believe no promises or threats 
could have induced him to utter it." 7 The Papuans of the 
Eastern Archipelago avoid speaking the names of the dead, 
and in Africa, a like prejudice is found among the Masai. 8 In 
the Old World, Pliny says of the Roman custom, " Why, when 
we mention the dead, do we declare that we do not vex their 

memory ? " 9 and indeed, the superstition is still to be found in 


1 Bowring, p. 38. 2 Polack, vol. i. p. 38. 

3 Simpson, Journey, vol. i. p. 130. Schoolcraft, part iii. p. 234. 

4 Dobrizhoffer, vol. ii. p. 273. 

5 Despard, ' Fireland,' ('Sunday at Home,' Oct. 31, 1863). 

6 Klemm, C. G-., vol. ii. p. 226. 

7 Lang, « Queensland,' pp. 367, 387. Eyre, 1. c. 

8 Bastian, vol. ii. p. 276, etc. 9 Plin., xxviii. 5. 


modern Europe, and better marked than in ancient Eome; 
perhaps nowhere more notably than in Shetland, where it is 
all but impossible to get a widow, at any distance of time, to 
mention the name of her dead husband, though she will talk 
about him by the hour. No dead person must be mentioned, 
for his ghost will come to him who speaks his name. 1 

To conclude the list, the dislike to mentioning the names of 
spiritual or superhuman beings, and everything to which super- 
natural powers are ascribed, is, as every one knows, very gene- 
ral. The Dayak will not speak of the small-pox by name, but 
will call it " the chief" or "jungle leaves," or say " Has he left 
you ? " 2 The euphemism of calling the Furies the Eumenides, 
or ' gracious ones/ is the stock illustration of this feeling, and 
the euphemisms for fairies and for the devil are too familiar 
to quote. The Yezidis, who worship Satan, have a horror of 
his name being mentioned. The Laplanders will call the bear 
" the old man with the fur coat," but they do not like to men- 
tion his name. In Asia, the same dislike to speak of the 
tiger is found in Siberia, among the Tunguz ; 3 and in Annam, 
where he is called "Grandfather" or "Lord," 4 while in Su- 
matra, they are spoken of as the " wild animals " or u ances- 
tors." 5 The name of Brahma is a sacred thing in India, as 
that of Jehovah is to the Jews, not to be uttered but on solemn 
occasions. The Moslem, it is true, has the name of Allah for 
ever on his lips, but this, as has been mentioned, is only an 
epithet, not the " great name." 

Among this series of prohibitions, several cases seem, like the 
burning in effigy among the practices with images, to fall into 
mere association of ideas, devoid of any superstitious thought. 
The names of husbands, of chiefs, of supernatural beings, or of 
the dead, may be avoided from an objection to liberties being 
taken with the property of a superior, from a dislike to as- 
sociate names of what is sacred with common life, or to revive 
hateful thoughts of death and sorrow. But in other instances, 

1 Mrs. Edmondston, ■ Shetland Islands ; ' Edin., 1856, p. 20. 

2 St. John, vol. i. p. 62. 3 Kavenstein, p. 382. 

4 Mouhot, ' Travels in Indo- China,' etc. ; London, 1864, vol. i. p. 263. 
6 Marsden, p. 292. 


the notion comes out with great clearness,, that the mere speak- 
ing of a name acts upon its owner, whether that owner be man, 
beast, or spirit, whether near or far off. Sometimes it may be 
explained by considering supernatural creatures as having the 
power of hearing their names wherever they are uttered, and as 
sometimes coming to trouble the living when they are thus dis- 
turbed. Where this is an accepted belief, such sayings as 
" Talk of the Devil and you see his horns," " Parlez du Loup," 
etc., have a far more serious meaning than they bear to us now. 
Thus an aged Indian of Lake Michigan explained why the 
native wonder-tales must only be told in the winter, for then 
the deep snow lies on the ground, and the thick ice covers up 
the waters, and so the spirits that dwell there cannot hear the 
laughter of the crowd listening to their stories round the fire in 
the winter lodge. But in spring the spirit-world is all alive, 
and the hunter never alludes to the spirits but in a sedate, 
reverent way, careful lest the slightest word should give of- 
fence. 1 In other cases, however, the effect of the utterance of 
the name on the name's owner would seem to be different from 
this. The explanation does not hold in the case of a man re- 
fusing to speak his own name, nor would he be likely to think 
that his mother-in-law could hear whenever he mentioned hers. 

Some of these prohibitions of names have caused a very 
curious phenomenon in language. When the prohibited name 
is a word in use, and often when it is only something like such 
a word, that word has to be dropped and a new one found to 
take its place. Several languages are known to have been 
specially affected by this proceeding, and it is to be remarked 
that in them the causes of prohibition have been different. In 
the South Sea Islands, words have been tabued, from connexion 
with the names of chiefs ; in Australia, Van Diemen's Land, 
and among the Abipones of South America, from connexion 
with the names of the dead ; while in South Africa, the avoid- 
ance of the names of certain relatives by marriage has led to a 
result in some degree similar. 

Captain Cook noticed in Tahiti that when a chief came to the 
royal dignity, any words resembling his name were changed. 
1 Schoolcraft, part iii. pp. 314, 492. 


Even to call a horse or a dog " Prince V or " Princess " was dis- 
gusting to the native mind. 1 Polack says that from a New 
Zealand chief being called " War," which means ' ' water," a 
new name had to be given to water. A chief was called " Ma- 
ripi," or ' ' knife ; " and knives were called, in consequence, by 
another name, "nekra." 2 Hale, the philologist to the U. S. 
Exploring Expedition, gives an account of the similar Tahitian 
practice known as te pi, by virtue of which, for instance, the 
syllable tu was changed even in indifferent words, because' there 
was a king whose name was Tu. Thus fetu (star) was changed 
to fetia, tui (to strike) became tiai, and so on. 3 

Mentioning the Australian prohibition of uttering the names 
of the dead, Mr. Eyre says : — " In cases where the name of a 
native has been that of some bird or animal of almost daily re- 
currence, a new name is given to the object, and adopted in the 
language of the tribe. Thus at Moorunde, a favourite son of 
the native Tenberry was called Torpool, or the Teal; upon 
the child's death the appellation of tilquaitch was given to the 
teal, and that of torpool altogether dropped among the Moo- 
runde tribe." 4 The change of language in Tasmania, which 
has resulted from dropping the names of the dead, is thus de- 
scribed by Mr. Milligan :— " The elision and absolute rejection 
and disuse of words from time to time has been noticed as 
a source of change in the Aboriginal dialects. It happened 
thus : — The names of men and women were taken from na- 
tural objects and occurrences around, as, for instance, a kan- 
garoo, a gum-tree, snow, hail, thunder, the wind, the sea, the 
Waratah — or Blandifordia or Boronia when in blossom, etc., 
but it was a settled custom in every tribe, upon the death of 
any individual, most scrupulously to abstain ever after from men- 
tioning the name of the deceased, — a rule, the infraction of 
which would, they considered, be followed by some dire calami- 
ties : they therefore used great circumlocution in referring to a 
dead person, so as to avoid pronunciation of the name, — if, for 

1 Cook, Third Yoyage, vol. ii. p. 170. 

2 Polack, vol. i. p. 38 j vol. ii. p. 126. 

- 3 Hale, in U.S. Exp., vol. vi. p. 288. Max Muller, 'Lectures,' 2nd series j 
London, 1864, pp. 34-41. 4 Eyre, vol. ii. p. 354. 



instance, William and Mary, man and wife, were both deceased, 
and Lucy, the deceased sister of William, had been married to 
Isaac, also dead, whose son Jemmy still survived, and they 
wished to speak of Mary, they would say f the wife of the 
brother of Jemmy's father's wife/ and so on. Such a practice 
must, it is clear, have contributed materially to reduce the 
number of their substantive appellations, and to create a neces- 
sity for new phonetic symbols to represent old ideas, which new 
vocables would in all probability differ on each occasion, and 
in every separate tribe ; the only chance of fusion of words be- 
tween tribes arising out of the capture of females for wives from 
hostile and alien people, — a custom generally prevalent, and 
doubtless as beneficial to the race in its effects as it was savage 
in its mode of execution." 1 

Martin Dobrizhoffer, the Jesuit missionary, gives the follow- 
ing account of the way in which this change was going on in 
the language of the Abipones in his time. " The Abiponian 
language is involved in new difficulties by a ridiculous custom 
which the savages have of continually abolishing words common 
to the whole nation, and substituting new ones in their stead. 
Funeral rites are the origin of this custom. The Abipones do 
not like that anything should remain to remind them of the 
dead. Hence appellative words bearing any affinity with the 
names of the deceased are presently abolished. During the 
first years that I spent amongst the Abipones, it was usual to 
say Hegmalkam kahamdtek ?, ' When will there be a slaugh- 
tering of oxen ? ' On account of the death of some Abipone, 
the word hahamdtek was interdicted, and, in its stead, they 
were all commanded, by the voice of a crier, to say, Hegmal- 
kam negerkata ? The word nihirenak, a tiger, was exchanged 
for arpanigehak ; peue, a crocodile, for kaejprliak, and kadma, 
Spaniards, for Rikil, because these words bore some resem- 
blance to the names of Abipones lately deceased. Hence it is 
that our vocabularies are so full of blots, occasioned by our 
having such frequent occasion to obliterate interdicted words, 
and insert new ones." 2 

1 Milligan, in Papers, etc., of Key. Soc. of Tasmania, yoL iii. part ii. 1859, 
p. 281. 2 Dobrizhoffer, vol. ii. p. 203. 


In South Africa, it appears that some Kafir tribes drop from 
their language words resembling the names of their former 
chiefs. Thus the Ama-Mbalu do not call the sun by its ordi- 
nary Zulu name i-langa, but their first chief's name having 
been Ulanga, they use the word i-sota instead. It is also 
among the Kafirs that the peculiar custom of uku-hlonipa is 
found, which is remarked upon by Professor Max Miiller in his 
second course of lectures. 1 The following account of it is 
from another source, the Rev. J. L. Dohne, who thus speaks 
of it under the verb hlonijpa, which means to be bashful, to 
keep at a distance through timidity, to shun approach, to avoid 
mentioning one's name, to be respectful. "This word de- 
scribes a custom, between the nearest relations, and is exclu- 
sively applied to the female sex, who, when married, are not 
allowed to call the names of the relatives of their husbands 
nor of their fathers-in-law. They must keep at a distance 
from the latter. Hence they have the habit of inventing new 
names for the members of the family, which is always resorted 
to when those names happen to be either derived from, or are 
equivalent to some other word of the common language, as, 
for instance, if the father or brother-in-law is called Umehlo, 
which is derived from amehlo, eyes, the isifazi [female sex] 
will no longer use amehlo but substitute amakangelo (look- 
ings), etc., and hence, the izwi lezifazi, i.e. : women-word or 
language has originated." 2 

Other instances of change of language by interdicting words 
are to be found. The Yezidis, who worship the devil, not only 
refuse to speak the name of Sheitan, but they have dropped 
the word sliat, " river/' as too much like it, and use the word 
nahr instead. Nor will they utter the word keitan, " thread" 
or "fringe," and even naal> "horse-shoe,''' and naal-band, 
" farrier," are forbidden words, because they approach to laan, 
11 curse," and maloun, " accursed." 3 It is curious to observe 
that a " disease of language" belonging to the same family has 
shown itself in English-speaking countries and in modern 

1 Max Miiller, /. c. 

2 Dohne, ' Zulu-Kafir Dictionary ;' Cape Town, 1857, s.v. hlonipa. 

3 Layard, 'Nineveh;' London, 1819, vol. i. p. 297. 

L 2 


times. In America especially, a number of very harmless 
words have been ' ' tabooed n of late years, not for any offence 
of their own, but for having a resemblance in sound to words 
looked upon as indelicate, or even because slang has adopted 
them to express ideas ignored by a somewhat over-fastidious 
propriety. We in England are not wholly clear from this of- 
fence against good taste, but we have been fortunate in seeing 
it developed into its full ugliness abroad, and may hope that it 
is checked once for all among ourselves. 

It may be said in concluding the subject of Images and 
Names, that the effect of an inability to separate, so clearly as we 
do, the external object from the mere thought or idea of it in 
the mind, shows itself very fully and clearly in the superstitious 
beliefs and practices of the untaught man, but its results are by 
no means confined to such matters. It is not too much to say 
that nothing short of a history of Philosophy and Religion 
would be required to follow them out. The accumulated ex- 
perience of so many ages has indeed brought to us far clearer 
views in these matters than the savage has, though after all we 
soon come to the point where our knowledge stops, and the 
opinions which ordinary educated men hold, or at least act 
upon, as to the relation between ideas and things, may come 
in time to be superseded by others taken from a higher level. 
But between our clearness of separation of what is in the 
mind from what is out of it, and the mental confusion of the 
lowest savages of our own day, there is a vast interval. More- 
over, as has just been said, the appearance even in the system 
of savage superstition, of things which seem to have outlived 
the recollection of their original meaning, may perhaps lead us 
back to a still earlier condition of the human mind. Especially 
we may see, in the superstitions connected with language, the 
vast difference between what a name is to the savage and what 
it is to us, to whom ' ' words are the counters of wise men and 
the money of fools." Lower down in the history of culture, the 
word and the idea are found sticking together with a tenacity 
very different from their weak adhesion in our minds, and there 
is to be seen a tendency to grasp at the word as though it 
were the object it stands for, and to hold that to be able to 


speak of a thing gives a sort of possession of it, in a way that 
we can scarcely realize. Perhaps this state of mind was hardly 
ever so clearly brought into view as in a story told by Dr. 
Lieber. " I was looking lately at a negro who was occupied 
in feeding young mocking-birds by the hand. ' Would they 
eat worms V I asked. The negro replied, ' Surely not, they 
are too young, they would not know what to call them/ >n 

1 Lieber, ■ Laura Bridgman j' Smiths. C, 1851, p. 9. 




Direct record is the mainstay of History,, and where this fails 
us in remote places and times, it becomes much more difficult 
to make out where civilization has gone forward, and where it 
has fallen back. As to progress in the first place ; when any 
important movement has been made in modern times, there 
have usually been well-informed contemporary writers, only 
too glad to come before the public with something to say that 
the world cared to hear. But in going down to the lower 
levels of traditional history, this state of things changes. It 
is not only that real information becomes more and more 
scarce, but that the same curiosity that we feel about the origin 
and growth of civilization, unfortunately combined with a dis- 
position to take any semblance of an answer rather than live 
in face of mere blank conscious ignorance, has favoured the 
growth of the crowd of mythic inventors and civilizers, who 
have their place in the legends of so many distant ages and 
countries. Their stories often give us names, dates, and places, 
even the causes which led to change, — just the information 
wanted, if only it were true. And, indeed, recollections of 
real men and their inventions may sometimes have come to be 
included among the tales of these gods, heroes, and sages ; 
and sometimes a mythic garb may clothe real history, as when 
Cadmus, Dip, " The East," brings the Phoenician letters to 
Greece. But, as a rule, not history, but mythology fallen cold 


and dead, or even etymology, allusion, fancy, are their only 
basis, from Sol, the son of Oceanus, who found out how to 
mine and melt the brilliant, sun-like gold, and Pyrodes, the 
" Fiery," who discovered how to get fire from flint, and the 
merchants who invented the art of glass-making (known in 
Egypt in such remote antiquity) by making fires on the sandy 
Phoenician coast, with their kettles set to boil over them on 
lumps of natron, brought for this likely purpose from their 
ship, — across the world to Kahukura, who got the fairies' 
fishing-net from which the New Zealanders learnt the art of 
netting, and the Chinese pair, Hoei and Y-meu, of whom the 
one invented the bow, and the other the arrow. 

As the gods Ceres and Bacchus become the givers of corn 
and wine to mortals, so across the Atlantic there has grown 
out of a simple mythic conception of nature, the story of the 
great enlightener and civilizer of Mexico. When the key 
which Professor Miiller and Mr. Cox have used with such suc- 
cess in unlocking the Indo-European mythology is put to the 
mass of traditions of the Mexican Quetzalcohuatl, collected by 
the Abbe Brasseur, 1 the real nature of this personage shows 
out at once. 

He was the son of Camaxtli, the great Toltec conqueror 
who reigned over the land of Anahuac. His mother died at 
his birth, and in his childhood he was cared for by the virgin 
priestesses who kept up the sacred fire, emblem of the sun. 
While yet a boy he was bold in war, and followed his father on 
his marches. But while he was far away, a band of enemies 
rose against his father, and with them joined the Mixcohuas, 
the " Cloud- Snakes," and they fell upon the aged king and 
choked him, and buried his body in the temple of Mixcoate- 
petl, the "Mountain of the Cloud- Snakes." Time passed on, 
and Quetzalcohuatl knew not what had happened, but at last 
the Eagle came to him and told him that his father was slain 
and had gone down into the tomb. Then Quetzalcohuatl rose 
and went with his followers to attack the temple of the Cloud- 
Snakes' Mountain, where the murderers had fortified them- 
selves, mocking him from their battlements. But he mined in 
1 Brasseur, ' Histoire,' vol. i. books ii. and iii. See vol. iii. book xii. chapter iii. 


a way from below, and rushed into the temple among them 
with his Tigers. Many he slew outright, but the bodies of 
the guiltiest he hewed and hacked, and throwing red pepper 
on their wounds, left them to die. 

After this there comes another story. Quetzalcohuatl ap- 
peared at Panuco, up a river on the Eastern Coast. He had 
landed there from his ship, coming no man knew from whence. 
He was tall, of white complexion, pleasant to look upon, with 
fair hair and bushy beard, dressed in long flowing robes. Be- 
ceived everywhere as a messenger from heaven, he travelled 
inland across the hot countries of the coast to the temperate 
regions of the interior, and there he became a priest, a law- 
giver, and a king. The beautiful land of the Toltecs teemed 
with fruit and flowers, and his reign was their Golden Age. 
Poverty was unknown, and the people revelled in every joy of 
riches and well-being. The Toltecs themselves were not like 
the small dark Aztecs of later times ; they were large of sta- 
ture and fair almost as Europeans, and (sun-like) they could 
run unresting all the long day. Quetzalcohuatl brought with 
him builders, painters, astronomers, and artists in many other 
crafts. He made roads for travel, and favoured the wayfaring 
merchants from distant lands. He was the founder of history, 
the lawgiver, the inventor of the calendar of days and years, 
the composer of the Tonalamatl, the " Sun-Book," where the 
Tonalpouhqui, " he who counts by the sun," read the destinies 
of men in astrological predictions, and he regulated the times 
of the solemn ceremonies, the festival of the new year and of 
the fifty-two years' cycle. But after a reign of years of peace 
and prosperity, trouble came upon him too. His enemies 
banded themselves against him, and their head was a chief 
who bore a name of the Sun, Tetzcatlipoca, the " Smoking 
Mirror," a splendid youth, a kinsman of Quetzalcohuatl, but 
his bitter enemy. They rose against Quetzalcohuatl, and he 
departed. The kingdom, he said, was no longer under his 
charge, he had a mission, elsewhere, for the master of distant 
lands had sent to seek him, and this master was the Sun. He 
went to Cholullan, ' ' the place of the fugitive," and founded 
there another empire, but his enemy followed him with his 


armies, and Quetzalcohuatl said lie must begone to the land of 
Tlapallan, for Heaven willed that he should visit other coun- 
tries, to spread there the light of his doctrine ; but when his 
mission was done, he would return and spend his old age with 
them. So he departed and went down a river on his ship to 
the sea, and there he disappeared. The sunlight glows on the 
snow-covered peak of Orizaba long after the lands below are 
wrapped in darkness, and there, some said, his body was car- 
ried, and rose to heaven in the smoke of the funeral pile, and 
when he vanished, the sun for a time refused to show himself 

How dim the meaning of these tales had grown among the 
Mexicans, when Montezuma thought he saw in Cortes and the 
Spanish ships the return of the great ruler and his age of gold. 
Quetzalcohuatl had come back already many a time, to bring 
light, and joy, and work, upon the earth, for he was the Sun. 
We may even find him identified with the Sun by name, and 
his history is perhaps a more compact and perfect series of 
solar myths than hangs to the name of any single personage 
in our own Aryan mythology. His mother, the Dawn or the 
Night, gives birth to him, and dies. His father Camaxtli is 
the Sun, and was worshipped with solar rites in Mexico, but 
he is the old Sun of yesterday. The clouds, personified in the 
mythic race of the Mixcohuas, or " Cloud- Snakes" (the Nibe- 
lungs of the western hemisphere), bear down the old Sun and 
choke him, and bury him in their mountain. But the young 
Quetzalcohuatl, the Sun of to-day, rushes up into the midst of 
them from below, and some he slays at the first onset, and 
some he leaves, rift with red wounds, to die. We have the 
Sun -boat of Helios, of the Egyptian Ea, of the Polynesian 
Maui. Quetzalcohuatl, his bright career drawing towards its 
close, is chased into far lands by his kinsman Tetzcatlipoca, 
the young Sun of to-morrow. He, too, is well-known as a Sun- 
god in the Mexican theology. Wonderfully fitting with all 
this, one incident after another in the life of Quetzalcohuatl 
falls into its place. The guardians of the sacred fire tend him, 
his funeral pile is on the top of Orizaba, he is the helper of 
travellers, the maker of the calendar, the source of astrology, 


the beginner of history, the bringer of wealth and happiness. 
He is the patron of the craftsman, whom he lights to his la- 
bour ; as it is written in an ancient Sanskrit hymn, " He steps 
forth, the splendour of the sky, the wide-seeing, the far-aim- 
ing, the shining wanderer j surely, enlivened by the sun, do 
men go to their tasks and do their work." 1 Even his people 
the Toltecs catch from him solar qualities. Will it be even 
possible to grant to this famous race, in whose story the legend 
of Quetzalcohuatl is the leading incident, anything more than 
a mythic existence ? 

The student, then, may well look suspiciously on state- 
ments professing to be direct history of the early growth of 
civilization, and may even find it best to err on the safe side 
and not admit them at all, unless they are shown to be pro- 
bable by other evidence, or unless the tradition is of such a 
character that it could hardly have arisen but on a basis of 
fact. For instance, both these tests seem to be satisfied by 
the Chinese legend concerning quipus. In the times of Yung- 
ching-che, it is related, people used little cords marked by dif- 
ferent knots, which, by their numbers and distances, served 
them instead of writing. The invention is ascribed to the 
Emperor Suy-jin, the Prometheus of China. 2 Putting names 
and dates out of the question, this story embodies the assertion 
that in old times the Chinese used quipus for records, till they 
were superseded by the art of writing. Now in the first place, 
it is not easy to imagine how such a story could come into 
existence, unless it were founded on fact ; and in the second 
place, an examination of what is known of this curious art in 
other countries, shows that just what the Chinese say once 
happened to them, is known to have happened to other races 
in various parts of the world. 

The quipu is a near relation of the rosary and the wampum- 
string. It consists of a cord with knots tied in it for the pur- 
pose of recalling or suggesting something to the mind. When 
a farmer's daughter ties a knot in her handkerchief to re- 

1 Miiller, Lectures, 2nd series, p. 497. 

2 G-oguet, vol. iii. p. 322. De Mailla, Histoire Gen. de la Chine ; Paris, 1777, 
vol. i. p. 4. 


member a commission at market by, she makes a rudimentary 
quipu. Darius made one when lie took a thong and tied sixty 
knots in it, and gave it to the chiefs of the Ionians, that they 
might untie a knot each day, till, if the knots were all undone, 
and he had not returned, they might go back to their own 
land. 1 Such was the string on which Le Boo tied a knot for 
each ship he met on his voyage, to keep in mind its name and ' 
country, and that one on which his father, Abba Thulle, tied 
first thirty knots, and then six more, to remember that Cap- 
tain Wilson was to come back in thirty moons, or at least in 
six beyond. 2 

This is so simple a device that it may, for all we know, have 
been invented again and again, and its appearance in several 
countries does not prove it to have been transmitted from one 
country to another. It has been found in Asia, 3 in Africa, 4 in 
Mexico, among the North American Indians ; 5 but its greatest 
development was in South America. 6 The word quipu, that 
is, ' ' knot," belongs to the language of Peru, and quipus served 
there as the regular means of record and communication for a 
highly-organized society. Von Tschudi describes them as con- 
sisting of a thick main cord, with thinner cords tied on to it at 
certain distances, in which the knots are tied. The length of 
the quipus varies much, the main trunk being often many ells 
long, sometimes only a single foot, the branches seldom more 
than two feet, and usually much less. He has dug up a quipu, 
he says, towards eight pounds in weight, a portion of which is 
represented in the woodcut from which the accompanying (Fig. 
15) is taken. The cords are often of various colours, each with 
its own proper meaning; red for soldiers, yellow for gold, 
white for silver, green for corn, and so on. This knot-writing 
was especially suited for reckonings and statistical tables; a 

1 Herod., iv. 98. See Plifi., x. 34. 

2 Keate, ' Pelew Islands ;' London, 1788, pp. 367, 392. 

3 Ercnan (E. Tr.) ; London, 1848, vol. i. p. 4J2. 

4 Goguet, vol. i. pp. 161, 212. Klemm, C. G., vol. i. p. 3. Bastian, vol. i. 
p. 412. 

5 Charlevoix, vol. vi. p. 151. Long's Exp., vol. i. p. 235 (a passage which sug- 
gests a reason for Lucina being the patroness of child-birth). Talbot, Disc, of 
Lederer, p. 4. 6 Humboldt and Bonpland, vol. iii. p. 20. 



single knot meant ten, a double one a hundred, a triple one a 
thousand, two singles side by side twenty, two doubles two 
hundred. The distances of the knots from the main cord were 
of great importance, as was the sequence of the branches, for 
the principal objects were placed on the first branches and near 
the trunk, and so in decreasing order. This art of reckoning, 

Fig. 15. 
continues Yon Tschudi, is still in use among the herdsmen of 
the Puna (the high mountain plateau of Peru), and he had it 
explained to him by them, so that with a little trouble he could 
read any of their quipus. On the first branch they usually 
register the bulls, on the second the cows, these again they 
divide into milch-cows and those that were dry; the next 


branches contain the calves, according to age and sex, then 
the sheep in several subdivisions, the number of foxes killed, 
the quantity of salt used, and, lastly, the particulars of the 
cattle that have died. On other quipus is set down the pro- 
duce of the herd in milk, cheese, wool, etc. Each heading is 
indicated by a special colour or a differently twined knot. 

It was in the same way that in old times the army registers 
were kept ; on one cord the slingers were set down, on another 
the spearmen, on a third those with clubs, etc., with their 
officers ; and thus also the accounts of battles were drawn up. 
In each town were special functionaries, whose duty was to tie 
and interpret the quipus ; they were called Quipucamayocuna, 
or Knot-officers. Insufficient as this kind of writing was, the 
official historians had attained, during the flourishing of the 
kingdom of the Incas, to great facility in its interpretation. 
Nevertheless, they were seldom able to read a quipu without 
the aid of an oral commentary ; when one came from a distant 
province, it was necessary to give notice with it whether it re- 
ferred to census, tribute, war, and so forth. In order to in- 
dicate matters belonging to their own immediate district, they 
made at the beginning of the main cord certain signs only in- 
telligible to themselves, and they also carefully kept the quipus 
in their proper departments, so as not, for instance, to mistake 
a tribute-cord for one relating to the census. By constant 
practice, they so far perfected the system as to be able to re- 
gister with their knots the most important events of the king- 
dom, and to set down the laws and ordinances. In modern 
times, all the attempts made to read the ancient quipus have 
been in vain. The difficulty in deciphering them is very great, 
since every knot indicates an idea, and a number of inter- 
mediate notions are left out. But the principal impediment 
is the want of the oral information as to their subject-matter, 
which was needful even to the most learned decipherers. How- 
ever, should we even succeed in finding the key to their inter- 
pretation, the results would be of little value ; for what would 
come to light would be mostly census-records of towns or pro- 
vinces, taxation-lists, and accounts of the property of deceased 
persons. There are still some Indians, in the southern pro- 


vinces of Peru, who are perfectly familiar with the contents of 
certain historical quipus preserved from ancient times ; but 
they keep their knowledge a profound secret, especially from 
the white men. 1 

Coming nearer to China, quipus are found in the Eastern 
Archipelago and in Polynesia proper, 2 and they were in use in 
Hawaii forty years ago, in a form seemingly not inferior to the 
most elaborate Peruvian examples. " The tax-gatherers, though 
they can neither read nor write, keep very exact accounts of all 
the articles, of all kinds, collected from the inhabitants through- 
out the island. This is done principally by one man, and the 
register is nothing more than a line of cordage from four to 
five hundred fathoms in length. Distinct portions of this are 
allotted to the various districts, which are known from one 
another by knots, loops, and tufts, of different shapes, sizes, 
and colours. Each tax-payer in the district has his part in this 
string, and the number of dollars, hogs, dogs, pieces of sandal- 
wood, quantity of taro, etc., at which he is rated, is well de- 
fined by means of marks of the above kinds, most ingeniously 
diversified." 3 

The fate of the quipu has been everywhere to be superseded, 
more or less entirely, by the art of writing. Even the picture- 
writing of the ancient Mexicans appears to have been strong 
enough to supplant it. Whether its use in Mexico is men- 
tioned by any old chronicler or not, I do not know ; but Bo- 
turini placed the fact beyond doubt by not only finding some 
specimens in Tlascala, but also recording their Mexican name, 
nepolmaltzitzin* a word derived from the verb tlapohua, to - 
count. When, therefore, the Chinese tell us that they once 
upon a time used this contrivance, and that the art of writing 
superseded it, the analogy of what has taken place in other 
countries makes it extremely probable that the tradition is a 
true one, and this probability is reinforced by the unlikeliness 
of such a story having been produced by mere fancy. 

1 J. J. v. Tschudi, 'Peru; ' St. Gall, 1846, vol. ii. p. 383. 

2 Marsden, p. 192. Keate, loc. cit. KLemm, C. Gh, vol. iv. p. 396. 

3 Tyerman and Bennet, Journal ; London, 1831, vol. i. p. 455. 

4 Boturini, 'Idea de una nueva Historia,' etc.; Madrid, 1746, p. 85. 


Moreover, the historical value of early tradition does not lie 
exclusively in the fragments of real history it may preserve. 
Even the myths which it carries down to later times may be- [/ 
come important indirect evidence in the hands of the ethnolo- 
gist. And ancient compositions handed down by memory from 
generation to generation, especially if a poetic form helps to 
keep them in their original shape, often give,us, if not a sound 
record of real events, at least a picture of the state of civiliza- 
tion in which the compositions themselves had their origin. 
Perhaps no branch of indirect evidence, bearing on the history 
of culture, has been so well worked as the memorials of earlier 
states of society, which have thus been unintentionally pre- 
served, for instance, in the Homeric poems. Safer examples 
than the following might be quoted ; but as so much has been 
said of the history of the art of writing, the place may serve 
to cite what seems to be a memorial of a time when, among 
the ancient Greeks, picture-writing had not as yet been super- 
seded by word-writing, in the tale of Bellerophon, whom 
Prcetus would not kill, but he sent him into Lycia, and gave 
him baneful signs, graving on a folded tablet many soul-de- 
stroying things, and bade him show them to the king, that he 
might perish at his hands. 

Tltpne 8e piv AvKirjvbe, nopev 6° oye (rrjpaTa Xvypa, 
Tpa^ras iv tt'ivciki 7ttvktco 6vpo(pB6pa 7roAXa, 
Aei^at 6° rjvayyei a> nevdepco, 6<pp dnokoiTO. 1 

It happens unfortunately that but little evidence as to the 
early history of civilization is to be got by direct observation, 
that is, by contrasting the condition of a low race at different 
times, so as to see whether its culture has altered in the mean- [^S 
while. The contact requisite for such an inspection of a savage 
tribe by civilized men, has usually had much the same effect as 
the experiment which an inquisitive child tries upon the root it 
put in the ground the day before, by digging it up to see whe- 
ther it has grown. It is a general rule that original and inde- 
pendent progress is not found among a people of low civiliza- 

1 II., vi. 168. Wolf, Proleg. in Horn. ; Halle, 1859, 2nd ed. yol. i. p. 48, etc. 
Liddell and Scott, s. v. arj/xa. 


tion in presence of a higher race. It is natural enough that 
this should be the case, and it does not in the least affect the 
question whether the lower race was stationary or progressing 
before the arrival of the more cultivated foreigners. Even when 
the contact has been but slight and temporary, it either be- 
comes doubtful whether progress made soon afterwards is ori- 
ginal, or certain that it is not so. It has been asserted, for in- 
stance, that the Andaman Islanders had no boats in the ninth 
century, and that the canoe with an outrigger has only lately 
appeared among them. 1 If these statements should prove cor- 
rect, we cannot assume, upon the strength of them, that the 
islanders made these inventions themselves, seeing that they 
could easily have copied them from foreigners. Moreover, the 
fact that they now use bits of glass-bottles, and iron from 
wrecks, in making their tools and weapons, proves that, slight 
as their intercourse has been with foreigners, and bitter as is 
their hostility to them, their condition has, nevertheless, been 
materially changed by foreign influence. 

Though direct evidence thus generally fails us in tracing the 
history of the lower culture of mankind, there are many ways 
of bringing indirect evidence to bear on the problem. The 
early Culture-History of Mankind is capable of being treated 
as an Inductive Science, by collecting and grouping facts. It 
is true that very little has as yet been done in this way, as 
regards the lower races at least ; but the evidence has only to 
a very slight extent been got into a state to give definite 
results, and the whole argument is extremely uncertain and 
difficult : a fact -which sufficiently accounts for writers on the 
Origin of Civilization being able to tell us all about it, with 
that beautiful ease and confidence which belong to the specu- 
lative philosopher, whose course is but little obstructed by 

In a Lecture on the Origin of Civilization, since reprinted 
with a Preface, 2 the late Archbishop Whately thus summarily 
disposes of any claim of the lower races to a power of self- 
improvement. "For, all experience proves that men, left in 

1 Mouat, ' Andaman Islanders,' pp. 7, 11, 315. 

2 AYhately, ' Miscellaneous Lectures and Reviews ;' London, 1856. 


the lowest, or even anything approaching to the lowest, degree 
of barbarism in which they can possibly subsist at all, never did 
and never can raise themselves, unaided, into a higher condi- 
tion." This view, it may be remarked in passing, serves as 
basis for a theory that, though races arrived already at a mode- 
rate state of culture may make progress of themselves, such 
races must have been started on their way upwards by a super- 
natural revelation, to bring them to the point where indepen- 
dent progress became possible. Now, the denial to the low 
savage of the power of self-improvement is a broad statement, 
requiring, to justify it, at least a good number of cases of tribes 
who have had a fair trial under favourable circumstances, and 
have been found wanting. As definite statements of this na- 
ture, the two following are considered by Archbishop Whately 
as sufficient to give substance to his argument. 

u The New Zealanders, . . . whom Tasman first discovered 
in 1642, and who were visited for the second time by Cook, 
127 years after, were found by him exactly in the same condi- 
tion." Tasman, however, never set foot in New Zealand. The 
particulars he recorded of the civilization of the natives occupy 
the space of a page or so in his journal. 1 He mentions fires 
seen on shore ; a sort of trumpet blown upon by the natives ; 
their dressing their hair in a bunch behind the top of the 
head, with a white feather stuck in it; their double canoes, 
joined above with a platform • their paddles and sails ; their 
clothing, which was (as it seemed) sometimes of matting, 
and sometimes of cotton (he was wrong as to this last point, but 
very excusably so, considering how little opportunity he had 
of close examination) ; their spears and clubs ; a white flag- 
carried by a man in a boat ; and the square garden-enclosures 
seen on Three Kings' Island. The evidence to be got from 
this account, that the civilization of the New Zealanders had 
not considerably advanced when Cook afterwards visited, the 
country, or, for the matter of that, that it had not as consider- 
ably declined, does not seem very forcible. 

The other statement lies in the citing of a remark of Dar- 

1 Swart, c Journaal van de Reis naar bet onbekende Zuidland, door Abel Jansz. 
Tasman ;' Amsterdam, 1860, pp. 80-95. 



win's about the Fuegians, which runs thus : ] — " Their skill in 
some respects may be compared to the instinct of animals ; for 
it is not improved by experience : the canoe, their most inge- 
nious work, poor as it is, has remained the same, for the last 
two hundred and fifty years." But it must be noticed, that 
neither is the wretched hand-to-mouth life of the Fuegians 
favourable to progress, nor can a bark canoe ten feet long, 
holding four or five grown persons, beside children, dogs, 
implements, and weapons, and in which a fire can be kept 
burning on a hearth in the rough sea off Tierra del Fuego, 
be without tolerable sea-going qualities. As to workmanship, 
the modern Fuegian bark canoes are intermediate between the 
very rude ones of the Australian coast and the highly finished 
ones of North America, and it does not appear that their 
build may not be considerably better (or worse) than at the 
time of the visit of Sarmiento de Gamboa, in the sixteenth 
century. But the most remarkable thing in the whole matter, 
is the fact that the Fuegians should have had canoes at all, 
while coast-tribes across the straits made shift with rafts. 
This was of course a fact familiar to Mr. Darwin, and in the 
very next sentence after that quoted above, he actually goes 
on to ascribe to the Fuegian race the invention of their art of 
boat-building. " Whilst beholding these savages, one asks, 
whence have they come ? What could have tempted, or what 
change compelled a tribe of men to leave the fine regions of the 
north, to travel down the Cordillera or backbone of America, 
to invent and build canoes, and then to enter on one of the 
most inhospitable- countries within the limits of the globe? " 
Of this part of Mr. Darwin's remarks, however, Archbishop 
Whately did not think it necessary to take notice. 

I have brought forward these statements of his, not for the 
purpose of discussing his particular views, but of illustrating 
the unsound relation in which theory has so often been placed 
to fact. But far more profitable work than the criticism and 
construction of speculative theories, may be done by collecting 
facts or groups of facts leading to direct inferences. When 

1 Fitz Roy and Darwin, Narrative of Voyage of ' Adventure ' and 'Beagle; ' 
London, 1839, vol. iii. p. 236. See vol. i. p. 137. 


both fact and inference are sound, every such argument is a 
step gained, while if either be unsound, a distinct statement of 
fact and issue is the best means of getting them corrected, or, 
if needful, discarded altogether. A principal object of the 
present chapter, is to bring forward a variety of instances 
drawn from sources where indirect evidence bearing on our 
early history is to be sought. 

As examples of evidence from language, a few cases may be 
given. The word calculation, indicating the primitive art of 
reckoning by pebbles or calculi, has passed on with the growth 
of science to designate the working of problems far beyond 
the reach of the abacus. So, though the Mexicans, when they 
were discovered, had a high numerical system and were good 
reckoners, the word tetl, " stone," remained as an integral part 
of one of their sets of numerals for counting animals and 
things; centctl "one stone," ontetl "two stone," etetl "three 
stone," etc., meaning nothing more than one, two, three. Nor 
is Mexico the only country where this curious phenomenon 
occurs. The Malays say for " one " not only sa, but also sa- 
watu, that is literally " one stone," and the Javans say not only 
.<^Tbut sawiji, that is, ' ' one corn, or seed," and in like manner 
the Nias language calls one and two sambaa and dumbua, that 
is, apparently, "one fruit," " twojruits." 1 

Still more notable is the Aztec term for an eclipse. The 
idea that the sun and moon are swallowed or bitten by dragons, 
or great dogs, or other creatures, is not only very common in 
the Old World, but it is even found in North and South 
America, and Polynesia. 2 But there is evidence that the 
ancient Mexicans understood the real cause of eclipses. They 
are represented in the picture-writings by a figure of the 
moon's disc covering part of the sun's, and this symbol, Hum- 
boldt remarks, " proves exact notions as to the cause of 
eclipses ; it reminds us of the allegorical dance of the Mexican 

1 Crawfurd, Gr. and Die. of Malay Language ; London, 1852, vol. i. pp. lvi. 
lviii. lxvii., and see cexviii. 

2 Jacob Grimm, ' Deutsche Mythologie ; ' pp. 224-5, 668. Schoolcraft, part i. 
p. 271. Dobrizhoffer, vol. ii. p. 84. Du Tertre, Hist. Gen. des Antilles, etc. j 
Paris, 1667, vol. ii. p. 371. Turner, ■ Polynesia,' p. 531. 

3 Humboldt, Vues, pi. 56. 



priests, which represented the moon devouring the sun." 3 
Yet the Mexicans preserved the memory of an earlier state of 
astronomical knowledge, by calling eclipses of the sun and 
moon tonatiuh qualo, metztli quale, that is, "the sun's being 
eaten/' "the moon's being eaten," just as the Finns say, kuu 
sybda'd, " the moon is eaten," and the Tahitians that she is na- 
tna, that is, "bitten" or "pinched." 1 In the Mexican celebra- 
tion of the Netonatiuh-qualo, or eclipse of the sun, two of the 
captives sacrificed appeared as likenesses of the sun and moon. 2 

When a thing or an art is named in one country by a word 
belonging to the language of another, as maize, hammock, 
algebra, and the like, it is often good evidence that the thing 
or art itself came from thence, bringing its name with it. This 
kind of evidence, bearing upon the progress of civilization, has 
been much and successfully worked, but it has to be used with 
great caution when the foreign language is an important me- 
dium of instruction, or spoken by a race • dominant or powerful 
in the country. As instances of words good or bad as histo- 
rical evidence, may be taken the Arabic' words in Spanish. 
While alquimia (alchemy), albornoz (bornoos), acequia (irriga- 
ting channel), albaricoque (apricot), and many more, may really 
carry with them historical information of more or less value, it 
must be borne in mind, that the influence of the Arabic lan- 
guage in Spain was so great, that it has often given words for 
what was there long before Moorish times, alacran (scorpion), 
alboroto (uproar), alcor (hill), and so on; not satisfied with 
their own word for head, to express a head of cattle, the 
Spaniards must needs call it res, Arabic ras, head. So the New 
Zealanders' use of buha-buha for book is good evidence as to 
who taught them to read; but the name that the Tahitian 
nobles are now commonly adopting, instead of the native term 
arii, is bad evidence as to the origin of caste among them ; they 
like the title of tavana, which is a native attempt at governor. 

Even the etymology of a word may sometimes throw light 
upon the transmission of art and knowledge from one country 
to another, as where we may see how the Roman made sub- 

1 Castren, ' Finnische Mythologie ; ' pp. 63-5. Ellis, Polyn. Res., vol. ii. p. 415. 

2 Nieremberg, Hist. Nat, ; Antwerp, 1635, p. 143. Humboldt, Vues, pi. 23. 


stautia by translating biroa-ratTis, and the German, making 
himself a word for " superstition/' aberglaube, Flemish over- 
gel-oof, that is " over-belief," had the super of superstitio before 
him when he introduced into his language a notion which it 
had perhaps hardly realized before. To take a more specula- 
tive case of a very different kind, the tea-urns used in Russia are 
well known, but where did the Russians get the invention from? 
They get their tea from China, where tea-urns much resem- 
bling our own have long been in use. But the apparatus is no 
new thing in Europe, and the specimen in the Naples Museum, 
if it were coloured with the conventional chocolate colour, and 
had a tap put in to replace the original one which is lost, would 
perhaps be only remarked upon at an English tea-table as be- 
ing beautiful but old-fashioned. It was kept hot by charcoal 
burning in a tube in the middle, like the Russian urns. Now 
the name of a vessel just answering this description has been 
preserved, authepsa (av0tyr)<;, " self-boiler"), and of this term 
the Russian name for their urns, samovar, " self-boiler," is an 
exact translation. The coincidence suggests that they may 
have received both the thing and its name through Constanti- 
nople. Moreover, there is reason to think that the Western 
element in Chinese art is far more important than is popularly 
supposed, and the tea-urn is so peculiar an apparatus, and so 
strikingly alike in ancient Italy and in China, that it is scarcely 
possible that the two should be the results of separate inven- 
tion. Imperfect as the evidence is, there is at least some 
ground for the view that the hot water urn originated very 
early in Europe, and travelled east as far as China. 

It often happens that an old art or custom, which has been 
superseded for general purposes by some more convenient ar- 
rangement, is kept up long afterwards in solemn ceremonies 
and other matters under the control of priests and officials, 
who are commonly averse to change ; as inventions have often 
to wait long after they have come into general use before they 
are officially recognized. Wooden tallies were given for re- 
ceipts by our Exchequer up to the time of George IV., as if to 
keep up, as long as might be, the remembrance of the time 
when ' f our forefathers had no other books but the score and 


the tally " It is true that the notched Exchequer tally had 
long had a Latin inscription on it, and at last there was given 
into the bargain a fair English receipt, written on a separate 
\s paper. The tally survives still, not only in the broken six- 

pence, and in the bargains of peasants in outlying districts, 1 
but in the counterfoil of the banker's cheque. Some evidence 
of this ceremonial keeping up of arts superseded in private 
life, will be given in the chapters on the Stone Age and Fire- 

Such helps as these in working out the problem of the Origin 
and Progress of Culture grow scarcer as we descend among 
the lower races, and those of which we have little or no his- 
torical knowledge. Mere observation of arts in use, and of 
objects belonging to tribes living or dead, forms at present the 
bulk of the evidence of the history of their culture accessible 
to us. Of these records an immense mass has been collected, 
but they are very hard to read. 

Sometimes, indeed, an object carries its history written in 
its form, as some of the Esquimaux knives brought to England 
which are carved out of a single piece of bone, in imitation of 
European knives with handles, and show that the maker was 
acquainted with those higher instruments, though he had not 
the iron to make a blade of, or even a few scraps to fix along 
the edge of the bone blade, as they so often do. 

The keeping up in stone architecture of designs belonging 
to wooden buildings, furnishes conclusive proofs of the growth, 
in several countries, of the art of building in stone from the 
art of building in wood, — an argument which is used with ex- 
traordinary clearness and power in Mr. Fergusson's Handbook. 
In Central America and Asia Minor there are still to be seen 
stone buildings more or less entirely copied from wooden con- 
structions, while in Egypt a like phenomenon may be traced in 
structures belonging to the remote age of the pyramids. The 
student may see, almost as if he had been standing by when 
they were built, how the architect, while adopting the new 
material, began by copying from the wooden structures to 

which he had been accustomed. Speaking of the Lycian tombs 


1 Pictet, 'Origines,' part ii. p. 425. 


which still remain with their beams, planks, and panels, as it 
were turned from wood into stone, Mr. Fergusson remarks 
upon the value of such monuments as records of the beginning 
of stone architecture among the people who built them. 
" . . . wherever the process can be detected, it is in vain to 
look for earlier buildings. It is only in the infancy of stone 
architecture that men adhere to wooden forms, and as soon as 
habit gives them familiarity with the new material, they aban- 
don the incongruities of the style, and we lose all trace of the 
original form, which never reappears at an after age." 1 

There could hardly be a better illustration of an ethnological 
argument derived from the mere presence of an art, than in 
Marsden's remark about the iron-smelters of Madagascar. It 
is well known that the Madagascans are connected by language 
with the great Malayo- Polynesian family which extends half 
round the globe ; but the art of smelting iron has only been 
found in the islands of this vast district near Eastern Asia, and 
in Madagascar itself. Even in New Zealand, where there is 
good iron ore, there was no knowledge of iron. Now at the 
time of our becoming acquainted with the races of Africa, in 
central latitudes and far down into the south, they were iron- 
smelters, and had been so for we know not how long, and 
Africa is only three or four hundred miles from Madagascar, 
whereas Sumatra is three or four thousand. Nevertheless, 
Marsden's observation connects the art in Madagascar with the 
distant Eastern Archipelago, and not with the neighbouring 
African continent. The process of smelting in small furnaces 
or pits is much the same in these two districts, but the bellows 
are different. The African bellows consist of two skins with 
valves worked alternately by hand, so as to give a continuous 
draught, much the same as those of modem India. These 
were not only in use among the ancient Greeks and Eomans, 
but are still to be found in Southern Europe ; I saw a wander- 
ing tinker at work at Paestum with a pair of goatskins with 
the hair on, which he compressed alternately to drive a current 
of air into his fire, opening and shutting with his hands the 

1 Fergusson, ' Illustrated Handbook of Architecture ; ' London, 1855, vol. i. 
pp. 148, 208, 220, ete. 


slits which served as valves. Several of these skin-bellows are 
often used at once in Africa, and there are to be found im- 
proved forms which approach more nearly to our bellows with 
boards, but the principle is always the same. 1 But the Malay 
blowing apparatus is something very different ; it is a double- 
barreled air forcing-pump. It consists of two bamboos, four 
inches in diameter and five feet long, which are set upright, 
forming the cylinders, which are open above, and closed below 
except by two small bamboo tubes which converge and meet 
at the fire. Each piston consists of a bunch of feathers or 
other soft substance, which expands and fits tightly in the 
cylinder while it is being forcibly driven down, and collapses 
to let the air pass as it is drawn up ; and a boy perched on a 
high seat or stand works the two pistons alternately by the 
piston-rods, which are sticks. (It is likely that each cylinder 
may have a valve to prevent the return draught.) Similar 
contrivances have been described elsewhere in the Eastern 
Archipelago, in Java, Mindanao, Borneo, and New Guinea, 
and in Siam, the cylinders being sometimes bamboos and 
sometimes hollowed trunks of trees. Marsden called attention 
to the fact that the apparatus used in Madagascar is similar to 
that of Sumatra. There is a description and drawing in Ellis's 
' Madagascar/ which need not be quoted in detail, as it does 
not differ in principle from that of the Eastern Archipelago. 
A single cylinder is sometimes used in Madagascar, and per- 
haps also in Borneo, but as a rule the far more advantageous 
plan of working two or several at once is adopted. The Chi- 
nese tinkers, who practise the art, quite unknown in Europe, 
of patching a cast-iron vessel with a clot of melted iron, per- 
form this extraordinary feat with an air forcing-pump, which 
has indeed but a single trunk and a piston packed with feathers, 
but is improved by valves and a passage which give it what is 
known as a " double action/' so that the single barrel does the 
work of two in the ruder construction of the islands. 2 

1 Petherick, pp. 293, 395. Andersson, p. 304. Backhouse, Narr. of a Visit to 
the Mauritius and S. Africa ; London, 1844, p. 377. Du Chaillu, ' Equatorial 
Africa ; ' p. 91, etc. etc. 

3 Marsden, p. 181. Kaffles, Hist, of Java, vol. i. pp. 168, 173. Dampier, 


It seems from the appearance of this remarkable apparatus 
in Madagascar and in the Eastern Archipelago, that the art of 
iron-smelting in these distant districts has had a common origin. 
Very likely the art may have gone from Sumatra or Java to 
Madagascar, but if so, this must have happened when they were 
in the Iron Age, to which we have no reason to suppose they 
had come in the time of their connexion with the ironless Maoris 
and Tahitians. Language throws no light on the matter; iron 
is called in Malay, bdsi, and in Malagasy, vi. 

It is but seldom that the transmission of an art to distant 
regions can be traced, except among comparatively high races, 
by such a beautiful piece of evidence as this. The sfate of 
things among the lower tribes which presents itself to the stu- 
dent, is a substantial similarity in knowledge, arts, and cus- 
toms, running through the whole world. Not that the whole 
culture of all tribes is alike, — far from it ; but if any art or cus- 
tom belonging to a low tribe is selected at random, it is twenty 
to one that something substantially like it may be found in at 
least one place thousands of miles off, though it very frequently 
happens that there are large portions of the earth's surface 
lying between, where it has not been observed. Indeed, there 
are few things in cookery, clothing, arms, vessels, boats, orna- 
ments, found in one place, that cannot be matched more or less 
nearly somewhere else, unless we go into small details, or rise 
to the level of the Peruvians and Mexicans, or at least of the 
highest South Sea Islanders. A few illustrations may serve to 
give an idea of the kind of similarity which prevails so largely 
among the simpler arts of mankind. 

The most rudimentary bird-trap is that in which the hunter is 
his own trap, as in Australia, where Collins thus describes it : — 
" A native will stretch himself upon a rock as if asleep in the 
sun, holding a piece of fish in his open hand ; the bird, be it 
hawk or crow, seeing the prey, and not observing any motion 
in the native, pounces on the fish, and, in the instant of seizing 

♦Voyages;' London, 1703-9, 5th ed. vol. i. p. 332. Bishop of Labuan, in Tr. 
Eth. Soc. ; London, 1863, p. 29. Gk W. Earl, ' Papuans j' London, 1853, p. 76. 
Mouhot, ■ Travels in Indo-Cliina,' etc. ; London, 1864, vol. ii. p. 133. Ellis, 
' Madagascar ;' vol. i. p. 307. Percy, ' Metallurgy ;' London, 1864, pp. 255, 
273-8, 746. 


it, is caught by the native, who soon throws him on the fire and 
makes a meal of him." Ward, the missionary, declares that a 
tame monkey in India, whose food the crows used to plunder 
while he sat on the top of his pole, did something very near 
this, by shamming dead within reach of the food, and seizing 
the first crow that came close enough. When he had caught 
it, the story says, he put it between his knees, deliberately 
plucked it, and threw it up into the air. The other crows set 
upon their disabled companion and pecked it to death, but they 
let the monkey's store alone ever after. The Esquimaux so 
far improves upon the Australian form of the art as to build 
himself a little snow-hut to sit in, with a hole large enough for 
him to put his hand through to clutch the bird that comes down 
upon the bait. 1 

There is a curious little art, practised in various countries, 
that of climbing trees by the aid of hoops, fetters, or ropes. 
Father Gilij thus describes it among the Indians of South 
America : — H They are all extremely active in climbing trees, 
and even the weaker women may be not uncommonly seen 
plucking the fruit at their tops. If the bark is so smooth and 
slippery that they cannot go up by clinging, they use another 
means. They make a hoop of wild vines, and putting their feet 
inside, they use it as a support in climbing." 2 This is what 
the toddy-drawer of Ceylon uses to climb the palm with, 3 but 
the negro of the West Coast of Africa makes a larger hoop 
round the tree and gets inside it, resting the lower part of his 
back against it, and jerks it up the trunk with his hands, a little 
at a time, drawing his legs up after it. 4 Ellis describes the 
Tahitian boys tying their feet together, four or five inches 
apart, with a piece of palm-bark, and with the aid of this fetter 
going up the cocoa-palms to gather the nuts f and Backhouse 
mentions a different plan in use in opossum-catching in Van 
Diemen's Land. The native women who climbed the tall, 

1 Collins, vol. i. p. 548. Ward, ■ Hindoos,' p. 43. Klemm, C. G., vol i. p. 314 j 
vol. ii. p. 292. 

2 Gilij, ' Saggio di Storia Americana ;' Rome, 1780-4, vol. ii. p. 40. See Bates, 
The Naturalist on the E. Amazons ;' London, 1863, vol. ii. p. 196. 

3 Tennent, ' Ceylon,' vol. ii. p. 523. See Plin., xiii. 7. 

4 Klemm, C. G-., vol. iii. p. 236. 5 Ellis, vol. i. p. 371. 


smooth gum-trees did not cut notches after the Australian 
plan, except where the bark was rough and loose near the 
ground. Having got over this part by the notches, they threw 
round the tree a rope twice as long as was necessary to encom- 
pass it, put their hatchets on their bare, cropped heads, and 
placing their feet against the tree and grasping the rope with 
their hands, they hitched it up by jerks, and pulled themselves 
up the enormous trunks almost as fast as a man would mount 
a ladder. 1 

The ancienti Mexcan art of turning the waters of their lakes 
to account by constructing floating gardens upon them, has 
been abandoned, apparently on account of the sinking of the 
waters, which are now shallow enough to allow the mud gar- 
dens to rest upon the bottom. At the time of Humboldt's visit 
to Mexico, however, there were still some to be seen, though 
their number was fast decreasing. The floating gardens, or chi- 
nampas, which the Spaniards found in great numbers, and seve- 
ral of which still existed in his time on the lake of Chalco, were 
rafts formed of reeds, roots, and branches of underwood. The 
Indians laid on the tangled mass quantities of the black mould, 
which is naturally impregnated with salt, but by washing with 
lake water is made more fertile. " The chinampas," he con- 
tinues, " sometimes even carry the hut of the Indian who serves 
as guard for a group of floating gardens. They are towed, or 
propelled with long poles, to move them at will from shore to 
shore." 3 Though floating gardens are no longer to be met with 
in Mexico, they are still in full use in the shallow waters of 
Cashmere. They are made of mould heaped on masses of the 
stalks of aquatic plants, and will mostly bear a man's weight, 
though the fruit is generally picked from the banks. They 
differ from the ancient Mexican chinampas in not being towed 
from one place to another, but impaled on fixed stakes, which 
keep them to their moorings, but allow them to rise and fall 
with the level of the water. 3 

The floating islands of the Chinese lakes are far more arti- 

1 Backhouse, * Australia,' p. 172. 

2 Humboldt, 'Essai Politique ;' Paris, 1811, vol. ii. p. 185, etc. 

3 Torrens, 'Travels in Ladak,' etc. ; London, 1862, p. 271. 


ficial structures than those of Mexico or Cashmere. The mis- 
sionary Hue thus describes those he saw on the lake of Ping- 
hou : — a We passed beside several floating islands, quaint and 
ingenious productions of Chinese industry which have perhaps 
occurred to no other people. These floating islands are enor- 
mous rafts, constructed generally of large bamboos, which long 
resist the dissolving action of water. Upon these rafts there 
is placed a tolerably thick bed of good vegetable mould, and 
thanks to the patient labour of some families of aquatic agricul- 
turists, the astonished eye sees rising from the surface of the 
waters smiling habitations, fields, gardens, and plantations of 
great variety. The peasants on these farms seem to live in 
happy abundance. During the moments of rest left them from 
the tillage of the rice plots, fishing is at once their lucrative and 
agreeable pastime. Often when they have gathered in their 
crop upon the lake, they throw their net and draw it on board 
their island loaded with fish. . . . Many birds, especially pigeons 
and sparrows, stay by their own choice in these floating fields 
to share the peaceable and solitary happiness of these poetical 
islanders. Towards the middle of the lake, we met with one 
of these farms attempting a voyage. It moved with extreme 
slowness, though it had the wind aft. Not that sails were want- 
ing ; there was a very large one above the house, and several 
others at the corners of the island ; moreover, all the islanders, 
men, women, and children, provided with long sweeps, were 
working with might and main, though without putting much 
speed into their farm. But it is likely that the fear of delay 
does not much trouble these agricultural mariners, who are 
always sure to arrive in time to sleep on land. They, are often 
seen to move from place to place without a motive, like the 
Mongols in the midst of their vast prairies ; though, "happier 
than those wanderers, they have learnt to make for themselves 
as it were a desert in the midst of civilization, and to ally the 
charms and pleasures of a nomade with the advantages of a 
sedentary life." 1 

Such coincidences as these, when found in distant regions 
between whose inhabitants no intercourse is known to have 

1 Hue, ' L'Empire Chinois ;' Paris, 1851, 2nd cd. p. 114. 


taken place, are not to be lightly used as historical evidence of 
connexion. It is safest to ascribe them to independent inven- 
tion, unless the coincidence passes the limits of ordinary pro- 
bability. Ancient as the art of putting in false teeth is in the 
Old World, it would scarcely be thought to affect the originality 
of the same practice in Quito, where a skeleton has been found 
with false teeth secured to the cheek-bone by a gold wire, 1 nor 
does the discovery in Egypt of mummies with teeth stopped 
with gold, appear to have any historical connexion with . the 
same contrivance among ourselves. 2 Thus, too, the Austra- 
lians were in the habit of cooking fish and pieces of meat in hot 
sand, each tied up in a sheet of bark, and this is called yudarn 
dookoon, or "tying-up cooking," 3 but it does not follow that 
they had learnt from Europe the art of dressing fish en papil* 

Perhaps the occurrence of that very civilized instrument, the 
fork for eating meat with, in the Fiji Islands, is to be ac- 
counted for by considering it to have been independently in- 
vented there. The Greeks and Romans do not appear to have 
used forks in eating, and they are said not to have been intro- 
duced in England from the South of Europe, till the beginning 
of the seventeenth century. 4 At any rate, Hakluyt thus trans- 
lates, in 1598, a remark made by Galeotto Perera, concerning 
the use of chopsticks in China; — "they feede with two sticks, 
refraining from touching their meate with their hands, even as 
we do with forkes," but he finds it necessary to put a note in 
the margin, "We, that is the Italians and Spaniards." 5 How 
long forks had been used in the South of Europe, and where 
they originally came from, does not seem clear, but there is a 
remark to the purpose in William of Ruysbruck's description 
of the manners of the Tatars, through whose country he tra- 
velled about 1253. " They cut up (the meat) into little bits in a 
dish with salt and water, for they make no other sauce, and then 

1 Bollaert, Ees. in New Granada, etc. ; London, 1860, p. 83. 

2 Wilkinson, Pop. Ace, vol. ii. p. 350. 3 Grey, Journals, vol. ii. p. 276. 

4 Wright, ' Domestic Manners,' p. 457. 

5 Hakluyt, ' The Principal Navigations, Voyages,' etc. ; London, 1598, vol. ii. 
part ii. p. 68. 


with the point of a knife or with a little fork (furcicula), which 
they make for the purpose, like those we use for eating pears 
and apples stewed in wine, they give each of the guests stand- 
ing round one mouthful or two, according to their numbers." 1 
The circumstances under which the fork makes its appearance 
in the Fiji Islands, are remarkable. If it is known elsewhere 
in Polynesia (except of course as distinctly adopted with other 
European fashions), it is certainly not commonly so, and its use 
appears to be connected with the extraordinary development of 
the art of cooking there, as contrasted with most of the Pacific 
islands, where, generally speaking, there were no vessels in 
which liquid was boiled over the fire, and boiling, if done at 
all, was done by a ruder process. But the Fijians were ac- 
complished potters, and continue to use their earthen vessels 
for the preparation of their various soups and stews, for fishing 
the hot morsels out of which the forks are used, perhaps ex- 
clusively. Those we hear of particularly are the " cannibal 
forks H for eating man's flesh, which are of wood, artistically 
shaped and sometimes ornamented, and were handed down as 
family heirlooms. Each had its individual name ; for instance, 
one which belonged to a chief celebrated for his enormous 
cannibalism was called undroundro, " a word used to denote a 
small person or thing carrying a great burden." 2 It would be 
a remarkable point if, as Dr. Seemann thinks, the fork were 
only used for this purpose, 3 and we might be inclined to 
theorize on its invention as connected with the tabu, so com- 
mon in Polynesia, which restricts the tabued person from 
touching his food with his hands, and compels him to be fed 
by some one else, or in default, to grovel on the ground and 
take up his food with his mouth. But a description by 
Williams of the furniture of a Fijian household, seems to 
imply its use for ordinary purposes as well. " On the hearth, 
each set on three stones, are several pots, capable of holding 
from a quart to five gallons. Near these are a cord for binding 
fuel, a skewer for trying cooked food, and, in the better houses, 
a wooden fork — a luxury which, probably, the Fijian enjoyed 

1 Gul. de Rubruquis, in Hakluyt, vol i. p. 75. See Ajton, in Purchas, vol. iii. 
p. 242. 2 Williams, 'Fiji,' vol. i. pp. 212-3. 3 Seemann, ' Viti,' p. 179. 


when our worthy ancestors were wont to take hot food in their 
practised fingers." 1 But whether the use of the fork in eating 
came about in Fiji as a consequence of the common use of 
stewed food, or from some more occult cause, it seems proba- 
ble that their use of it and ours may spring from two inde- 
pendent inventions. That they got the art of pottery from 
Asia is indeed likely enough, but there seems very little ground 
for thinking that the eating-fork came to them from Asia, or 
from anywhere else. 

If an art can be found existing in one limited district of the 
world, and nowhere else, there seems to be ground for assum- 
ing that it was invented by the people among whom it is found, 
with much greater confidence than if it appears in several 
distant places. Any one, however, who thinks this an unfair 
inference, may console himself with the knowledge that Ethno- 
logists seldom get a chance of using it at present, except for 
very trifling arts or for unimportant modifications. Indeed, 
any one who claims a particular place as the source of even the 
smallest art, from the mere fact of finding it there, must feel </ 
that he may be using his own ignorance as evidence, as though 
it were knowledge. It is certainly playing against the bank, 
for a student to set up a claim to isolation for any art or cus- 
tom, not knowing what evidence there may be against him, 
buried in the ground, hidden among remote tribes, or contained 
even in ordinary books, to say nothing of the thousands of 
volumes of forgotten histories and travels. 

Among the inventions which it seems possible to trace to 
their original districts, is the hammock, which is found, as it 
were, native in a great part of South America, and the West 
Indies, and is known to have spread thence far and wide over 
the world, carrying with it its Haitian name, liamac. 

The boomerang is a peculiar weapon, and moreover there 
are found beside it in its country, Australia, intermediate forms 
between it and the battle-axe or pick ; so that there is ground 
for considering it a native invention developed through such 
stages into its most perfect form. Various Old World missiles 
have indeed been claimed as boomerangs ; a curved weapon 
1 Williams, vol. i. p. 138. 


shown on the Assyrian bas-reliefs, the throwing- cudgel of the 
Egyptian fowler, the African lissdn or curved club, the iron 
hungamunha of the' Tibbus, but without clear proof being 
brought forward that these weapons, or the boomerang-like 
iron projectiles of the Neam Nam, have either of the great 
peculiarities of the boomerang, the sudden swerving from the 
apparent line of flight, or the returning to the thrower. Mr. 
Samuel Ferguson has written a very learned and curious paper 1 
on supposed European analogues of the boomerang, in con- 
cluding which he remarks, not untruly, that " many of the 
foregoing inferences will, doubtless, appear in a high degree 
speculative." As might be expected, he makes the most of 
the obscure description of the cateia, set down about the be- 
ginning of the seventh century by Bishop Isidore of Seville. 2 
But what is far more to the purpose, Mr. Ferguson seems to 
have made trial of a curved club of ancient shape, and some 
hammer- and cross- shaped weapons, such as may have been 
used in Europe, and to have made them fly with something of 
the returning flight of the boomerang. On the whole, it would 
be rash to assert that the principle of the boomerang was quite 
unknown in the Old World. Another remarkable weapon, the 
bolas, seems to be isolated in the particular region of South 
America where it was found in use, and was therefore very 
likely invented there ; but its principle is known also among 
the Esquimaux, whose thin thongs, weighted with bunches of 
ivory knobs, are arranged to wind themselves round the bird 
they are thrown at, in much the same way as the much stouter 
cords, weighted at the ends with two or three heavy stone balls, 
which form the bolas of the Southern continent. 

A few more instances may be given, rather for their quaint- 
ness than for their importance. The Australians practise an 
ingenious art in bee-hunting, which I have not met with any- 
where else. The hunter catches a bee, and gums a piece of 

1 S. Ferguson, in Trans. R. I. A. ; Dublin, 1843, vol. xix. 

2 "Est enim genus Gallici teli ex materia quani maxime lenta, quae jacta qui- 
dem non longe propter gravitatem evolat : sed qu6 pervenit, vi nimia perfrin- 
git : qabd si ab artifice mittatur : rursum redit ad eum, qui misit," etc. (Isid. 
Origg. xviii. 7.) 


down to it, so that it can fly but slowly, and he can easily 
follow it home to the hive, and get the honey. 1 The North 
American bee-hunters do not appear to know this contrivance. 
Again, there is the curious art of changing the colour of a live 
macaw's feathers from blue or green to brilliant orange or 
yellow, by plucking them and rubbing some liquid into the 
skin (it is said the milky secretion from a small frog or toad), 
which causes the new feathers to grow with a changed colour. 2 
This is done in South America, but, so far as I know, not else- 
where; and it seems reasonable to suppose that it was invented 
there. | 

The pellet-bow, which is a bow strung with a broad strap, or 
with a double string and net, and has been found in use for 
shooting clay-pellets or stones at small game, and even as a 
weapon in war, is a modification of the bow, used in South 
America but perhaps not elsewhere. 3 And the natives of the 
Malayan peninsula have very likely a monopoly of the device 
of perforating growing bamboos, so as to convert them into 
living iEolian flutes. 4 

When an art is practised upon some material which belongs 
exclusively, or in a large degree, to the place where the art is 
found, the probability that it was invented on the spot becomes 
almost a certainty. No one would dispute the claim of the 
Peruvians or Chilians to have discovered the use, for manure, 
of the huanuj or, as we call it, " guano/' which their excep- 
tionally rainless climate has allowed to accumulate on their 
coasts, nor the claim of the dwellers in the hot regions near 
the Gulf of Mexico to have found out how to make their 
chocollatl from a native plant. 

On the other hand, when tribes are found living among the 
very materials which are turned to account by simple arts else- 
where, and yet are ignorant of those arts, we have good ethno- 
logical evidence as to their condition when they first settled in 

1 Lang, p. 328. Backhouse, Austr., p. 380. 

2 Wallace, ' Travels on the Amazon and Rio Negro ;' London, 1853, p. 294. 
De la Condamine, in Pinkerton, vol. xiv. p. 248. 

8 Dobrizhoffer, vol. ii. p. 360. Klemm, C. Gr., vol. ii. p. 17. Southey, vol. ii. 
p. 369 j vol. iii. p. 863. A Tennent, ' Ceylon,' vol. i. p. 88. 



the place where we become acquainted with them. In investi- 
gating the difficult problem of Polynesian civilization, this state 
of things often presents itself, not uniformly, but in a partial, 
various way, that gives us a glimpse here and there of the 
trains of events that must have taken place, in different times 
and places, to produce the complex result we have before us. 
It is clear that a Malayo-Polynesian culture, proved by the 
combined evidence of language, mythology, arts, and cus- 
toms, has spread itself over a great part of the Southern Is- 
lands, from the Philippines down to New Zealand, and from 
Easter Island to Madagascar j*though the pure Malayo-Polyne- 
sian race only forms a part of the population of the district in 
which its language and civilization more or less predominate. 
The original condition of the Malayo-Polynesian family, as 
determined by the state of its lower members, presents us with 
few arts not found at least in a rudimentary state in. Australia, 
though these arts were developed with immensely greater skill 
and industry. In most of the South Sea Islands there was no 
knowledge of pottery, nor of the art of boiling food in vessels 
over a fire. Great part of the race was strictly in the stone 
age, knowing nothing of metals. The sugar-cane grew in 
Tahiti, but the natives only chewed it, knowing nothing of the 
art of sugar-making j 1 nor did they make any use of the cotton- 
plant, though it grew there. 2 The art of weaving was un- 
known in most of the islands away from Asia. Though the 
cocoa-nut palm was common, they did not tap it for toddy \ 
and Dr. Seemann taught the Fijians the art of extracting sago 
from their native sago-palms. 3 

In other districts, however, a very different state of things 
was found. In Sumatra and other islands near Asia, and in 
Madagascar, iron was smelted and worked with much skill. 
The simplest kind of loom had appeared in the Eastern Archi- 
pelago, only, as the evidence seems to show, to be supplanted 

1 Cook, First Voy. H., yol. ii. p. 186. In the Fiji Islands, Williams, vol. i. 
pp. 63, 71, says that the sugar-cane is cultivated, and sugar made ; but he gives 
no opinion as to the age of these arts. 

2 J. E. Forster, Observations (Cook's Second Voy.) ; London, 1778, p. 384. 

3 Seemann, pp. 291, 329. 


by a higher kind. 1 Pottery was made there, and even far into 
Polynesia, as in the Fiji Islands. All these things were pro- 
bably introduced from Asia, to which country so very large 
a part of the present Malay culture is due, but there are 
local arts found cropping up in different groups of islands, 
which may be considered as native inventions peculiar to Poly- 
nesia. Thus, in some of the islands, it was customary to keep 
bread-fruit by fermenting it into a sour paste, in which state it 
could be stored away for use out of season, an art of consider- 
able value. This paste was called mahi in Tahiti, where Cap- 
tain Cook first saw it prepared, but it would seem to have been 
invented at a period since the part of the race which went to 
the Sandwich Islands were separated from the Tahitians, for 
the Sandwich Islanders knew nothing of it till the English 
brought it to them from Tahiti. 2 The use of the intoxicating 
liquor known as ava, ~kava } or yangona, appears to be peculiar 
to Polynesia, and therefore probably to have been invented 
there. It is true that the usual, though not universal practice 
of preparing it by chewing, gives it some resemblance to li- 
quors so prepared on the American continent, but these latter 
are of an entirely different character, being fermented liquors 
of the nature of beer, made from vegetables rich in starch, 
while the ava is not fermented at all, the juice of the plant it 
is made from being intoxicating in its fresh state. 3 

1 Marsden, p. 183. 

2 Cook's First Voy. H., vol. ii. p. 198 ; Third Toy., vol. iii. p. 141. 

3 The etymology of Jcava or ava is of interest. Its original meaning may have 
been that of bitterness or pungency ; Jcawa, N. Z. = pungent, bitter, strong (as 
spirits, etc.) ; 'ava, Tab. = a bitter, disagreeable taste ; Jcava, Ear. Mang. Nuk., 
'a' ava, Sam., awa awa, Haw. = sour, bitter, pungent. Thence the name may 
have been given, not only to the plant of which the intoxicating drink is made, 
the Macropiper methysticum, Tcava, Tong. Ear. Nuk. ; 'ava, Sam. Tah. Haw. ; 
but also in N. Z. to the Macropiper excelsum, or Tcawa Jcawa, and in Tahiti to 
tobacco, 'ava 'ava. Lastly, the drink is named in Tahiti and in other islands 
from the plant it is expressed from. But Mariner's Tongan vocabulary seems to 
go the other way ; cava — the pepper plant ; also the root of this plant, of which 
is made a peculiar kind of beverage, etc. ; cawna = bitter, brackish, also intoxi- 
cated with cava, or anything else. This looks as though the name of the plant 
gave a name to the quality of bitterness, as we say " peppery" in the sense of hot. 
(Seethe Vocabularies of Mariner, Hale, Buschmann, and the Church Miss. Soc, 
N. Z.) Southey (Hist, of Brazil, vol. i. p. 245) compares the word kava with 



The miscellaneous pieces of evidence given in this chapter 
have been selected less as giving grounds for arguments safe 
from attack, than as examples of the sort of material with 
which the Ethnologist has to deal. The uncertainty of many 
of the inferences he makes must be counterbalanced by their 
number, and by the concurrence of independent lines of reason- 
ing in favour of the same view. But in the arguments given 
here in illustration of the general method, only one side of 
history has been kept in view, and the facts have been treated 
generally as evidence of movement only in a forward direction, 
or (to define more closely what is here treated as Progress) of 
the appearance and growth of new arts and new knowledge, 
whether of a profitable or hurtful nature, developed at home 
or imported from abroad. Yet we know by what has taken 
place within the range of history, that Decline as well as Pro- 
gress in art and knowledge really goes on in the world. Is 
there not then evidence forthcoming to prove that degradation 
as well as development has happened to the lower races beyond 
the range of direct history? The known facts bearing on this 
subject are scanty and obscure, but by examining some direct 
evidence of Decline, it may be perhaps possible to form an 
opinion as to what indirect evidence there may probably be, 
and how it is to be treated; though actually to find this and 
use it, is a very different matter. 

There are developments of Culture which belong to a par- 
ticular climate or a particular state of society, which require a 
despotic government, a democratic government, an agricultural 
life, a life in cities, a state of continued peace or of continued 
war, an accumulation of wealth which exceeds what is wanted 
for necessaries and is accordingly devoted to luxury and refine- 
ment, and so forth. Such things are all more or less local and 

the South American word caou-in or kaawy, a liquor made from maize or the 
mandioc root by chewing, boiling with water, and fermenting ; but the idea of 
bitterness or pungency is unsuitable to this liquor. Dias (Die. da Lingua Tupy) 
gives perhaps a more accurate form, cauim = vinho, a derivative perhaps from 
cau = beber (vinho). To show how easily such accidental coincidences as that 
of Jcava and cauim may be found, a German root may be pointed out for both, 
looking as suitable as though it were a real one, Icauen, to chew. 


unstable. The Chinese do not make now the magnificent 
cloisonne enamels and the high-class porcelain of their ances- 
tors ; we do not build churches, or even cast church-bells, as 
our forefathers did. In Egypt the extraordinary development 
of masonry, goldsmiths' work, weaving, and other arts which 
rose to such a pitch of excellence there thousands of years 
ago, have died out under the influence of foreign civilizations 
which contented themselves with a lower level of excellence 
in these things, and there seems to be hardly a characteristic 
native art of any importance practised there, unless it be the 
artificial hatching of eggs, and even this is found in China. 
As Sir Thomas Browne writes in his ' Fragment on Mummies/ 
" Egypt itself is now become the land of obliviousness and 
doteth. Her ancient civility is gone, and her glory hath va- 
nished as a phantasma. Her youthful days are over, and her 
face hath become wrinkled and tetrick. She poreth not upon 
the heavens, astronomy is dead unto her, and knowledge 
maketh other cycles." 

The history of Central America presents a case somewhat 
like that of Egypt. The not uncommon idea that the deserted 
cities, Copan, Palenque, and the rest, are the work of an ex- 
tinct and quite unknown race, does not agree with the pub- 
lished evidence, which proves that the descendants of the old 
builders are living there now, speaking the old languages that 
were spoken before the Spanish Conquest. The ancient cities, 
with their wonders of masonry and sculpture, are deserted, 
the special native culture has in great measure disappeared, 
and the people have been brought to a sort of low European 
civilization ; but a mass of records, corroborated in other ways, 
show us the Central Americans before the Conquest, building 
their great cities and living in them, cultivating, warring, sa- 
crificing, much like their neighbours of Mexico, with whose 
civilization their own was intimately allied. An epitome of 
the fate of the ruined cities may be given in the words which 
conclude a remarkable native document published in Quiche 
and French by the Abbe Brasseur, — " Ainsi done e'en est fait 
de tous ceux du Quiche, qui s'appelle Santa-Cruz." The ruins 
of the great city of Quiche are still to be seen ; Santa Cruz, 


its successor, is a poor village of two thousand souls, a league 
or so away. 1 

Among the lower races, degeneration is seen to take place as 
a result of war, of oppression by other tribes, of expulsion into 
less favourable situations, and of various other causes. But 
arts which belong to the daily life of the man or the family, 
and cannot be entirely suppressed by violent interference, do 
not readily disappear unless superseded by some better contri- 
vance, or made unnecessary or very difficult by a change of 
life and manners. When the use of metals, of pottery, of the 
flint and steel, of higher tools and weapons, once fairly esta- 
blishes itself, a falling back appears to be uncommon. The 
Metal Age does not degenerate into the Stone Age except 
under very peculiar circumstances. The history of a higher 
weapon is generally that it supplants those that are less ser- 
viceable, to be itself supplanted by something better. We 
read of the Indian orator who exhorted his brethren to cast 
away the flint and steel of the white man, and to return to the 
fire-sticks of their ancestors, but such things are rather talked 
of than done. 

Cases of savage arts being superseded by a higher state of 
civilization are common enough. An African guide, or an 
Australian, will know a man by his footmark, while we hardly 
know what a footmark is like ; at least, nine Englishmen out 
of ten of the shoe-wearing classes will not know that the foot- 
prints in the Mexican picture-writings, as copied in Fig. 16, 

Fig. 16. 

are true to nature, till they have looked at the print of a wet 

foot on a board or a flagstone. Captain Burton remarked, on 

1 Brasseur, ' Popol Vuh ;' pp. 345-7. See also Diego de Landa, Rel. 


his road to the great Salt Lake, that bones and sknlls of cattle 
were lying scattered about, 1 though travellers are often put to 
great straits for fuel. The Gauchos of South America know 
better, for when they kill a beast on a journey, they use the 
bones as fuel to cook the flesh, 2 as the Scythians did in the 
time of Herodotus ; living in a country wanting wood, they 
made a fire of the bones of the beasts sacrificed, and boiled the 
flesh over it in a kettle, or if that were not forthcoming, in the 
paunch of the animal itself, " and thus the ox boils himself, 
and the other victims each the like." 3 

It sometimes happens that degeneration is caused by con- 
quest, when the conquering race is in anything at a lower level 
than the conquered. There is one art whose history gives some 
extraordinary cases of this kind of decline, the art of irrigation 
by watercourses. Within a few years one people, the Spaniards, 
conquered two nations, the Moors and the Peruvians, who were 
skilful irrigators, and had constructed great works to bring 
water from a distance to fertilize the land. These works were 
for the most part allowed to go to rack and ruin, and in Peru, 
as in Andalusia, great tracts of land which had been fruitful 
gardens fell back into parched deserts; while in Mexico the 
ruins of the great native aqueduct of Tetzcotzinco tell the same 
tale. Here, as in the irrigation of British India under our own 
rule, the results of higher culture in the conquered race de- 
clined in the face of a lower culture of the conquerors, but the 
sequel is still more curious. The Spaniards in America became 
themselves great builders of watercourses, and their works of 
this kind in Mexico are very extensive, and of great benefit to 
the drier regions where they have been constructed. But when 
a portion of territory that had been under Spanish rule was 
transferred to the United States, what the Spaniards had done 
to the irrigating works of the Moors and Peruvians, the new 
settlers did to theirs. In Froebel's time they were letting the 
old works go to ruin ; thus history repeats itself. 4 

The disappearance of savage arts in presence of a higher 

1 Burton, « City of the Saints,' p. 60. 2 Darwin, Journal, p. 194. 

3 Herod., iv. 61. See Ezekiel xxiv. 5 in LXX. Klemm, C. GK, vol. ii. p. 229 
(bones rubbed with fat burnt by Esquimaux). 4 Tylor, ■ Mexico,' pp. 157-161. 


civilization is however mostly caused by their being superseded 
by something higher, and this can hardly be called a decline 
of culture, which must not be confounded with the physical and 
moral decline of so many tribes under the oppression and 
temptation of civilized men. Real decline often takes place 
when a rude but strong race overcomes a cultivated but weak 
race, and of this we have good information ; but neither this 
change, nor that which takes place in the savage in presence of 
the civilized invader, gives the student of the low races all the 
information he needs. What he wants besides is to put the 
high races out of the question altogether, and to find out how 
far a low race can lose its comparatively simple arts and know- 
ledge, without these being superseded by something higher ; in 
fact, how far such a race can suffer pure decline in culture. 
This information is, however, very hard to get. 

Livingstone's remarks on the Bakalahari of South Africa 
show us a race which has fallen in civilization, but this fall has 
happened, partly or wholly, through causes acting from with- 
out. The great Kalahari desert is inhabited by two races, the 
Bushmen, who were perhaps the first human inhabitants of the 
country, and who never cultivate the soil, or rear any domestic 
animals but dogs, and the Ba-Kalahari, who are degraded 
Bechuanas. These latter are traditionally reported to have 
once possessed herds of cattle like the other Bechuanas, and 
though their hard fate has forced them to live a life much like 
that of the Bushmen, they have never forgotten their old ways. 
They hoe their gardens annually, though often all they can 
hope for is a supply of melons and pumpkins. And they care- 
fully rear small herds of goats, though Livingstone has seen 
them obliged to lift water for them out of small wells with a 
bit of ostrich egg-shell, or by spoonfuls. 1 This remarkable ac- 
count brings out strongly the manful struggle of a race which 
has been brought down by adverse circumstances, to keep up 
their former civilization, while the Bushmen, who, for all we 
know, may never have been in a higher condition than they 
are now, make no such effort. If we may judge these two races 
by the same standard, the Bushmen are either no lower than 

1 Livingstone, p. 49. 


they have ever been, or if they have come down from a condi- 
tion approaching that of the Bechuanas, the process of degra- 
tion must indeed have been a long one. 

Tribes who are known to have once been higher in the scale 
of culture than they are now, are to be met with in Asia. Some 
of the coast Tunguz live by fishing, though they are still called 
Orochi, which is equivalent to the term " Eeindeer Tunguz." 
No doubt the tradition is true of the Goldi that, though they 
have no reindeer now, they once had, like the Tunguz tribes north 
of the Amur. 1 There are Kalmucks north of the Caspian who 
have lost their herds of cattle and degenerated into fishermen. 
The richest of them has still a couple of cows. They look upon 
horses, camels, and sheep as strange and wondrous creatures 
when foreigners bring them into their country. They listen 
with wonder to their old men's stories of life in the steppes, of 
the great herds and the ceaseless wanderings over the vast 
plains, while they themselves dwell in huts of reeds, and carry 
their household goods on their backs when they have to move 
to a new fishing-place. 2 The miserable " Digger Indians " of 
North America are in part Shoshonees or Snake Indians, who 
were brought down to their present state by their enemies the 
Blackfeet, who got guns from the Hudson's Bay Company, and 
thus conquered the Snakes, and took away their hunting- 
grounds. They lead a wandering life, lurking among hills and 
crags, slinking from the sight of whites and Indians, and subsist- 
ing chiefly on wild roots and fish, and such game as so helpless a 
race is able to get. They are lean and abject-looking creatures, 
deserving the name of gens de pitie given them by the French 
trappers, and they have been driven to abandon arts which 
they possessed in their more fortunate days, such as riding, 
and apparently even hut-building ; but how far their degrada- 
tion has brought with it decline in other parts of their former 
culture, it is not easy to say. 3 

Here, then, ^ we have cases of material evidence which, as. 
we happen to have other means of knowing, ought to be treated 

1 Ravenstein, p. 318. 3 Klemm, 0. Gh, vol. iii. p. 4. 

3 Buschmann, 'Spuren der Aztekischen Sprache im nordlichen Mexico,' etc. 
etc. (Abh. der K. A. v. W., 1854) ; Berlin, 1859, p. 633, ct=. 


as recording decline. The sculptures and temples of Central 
America are the work of the ancestors of the present Indians, 
though if history, tradition, and transitional work had, all 
perished, it would hardly be thought so. The gardening of the 
Bakalahari, if the account of their origin is to be received, is a 
proof, not of an art gained, but of a higher level of civilization 
for the most part lost. 

It thus appears that, in the abstract, when there is found 
among a low tribe an art or a piece of knowledge which seems 
above their average level, three ways are open by which its 
occurrence may be explained. It may have been invented at 
home, it may have been imported from abroad, or it may be a 
relic of a higher condition which has mostly suffered degrada- 
tion, like the column of earth which the excavator leaves to 
measure the depth of the ground he has cleared away. 

Ethnologists have sometimes taken arts which appeared to 
them too advanced to fit with the general condition of their 
possessors, and have treated them as belonging to this latter 
class. But where such arguments have had no aid from direct 
history, but have gone on mere inspection of the arts of the 
lower races, all that I can call to mind, at least, seem open to 
grave exception. 

Thus the boomerang has been adduced as proof that the 
Australians were once in a far higher state of civilization. 1 It 
is true that the author who argued thus confounded the boome- 
rang with the throwing-cudgel, or, as a Hampshire man would 
call it, the squoyle, of the Egyptian fowler, so that he had at least 
an imaginary high civilization in view, of which the boomerang 
was an element. But, as has been mentioned, intermediate 
forms between the boomerang and the war-club or pick, are 
known in Australia, a state of things which fits rather with 
growth than with degeneration. 2 

In South America, Humboldt was so struck with the cy- 
linders of very hard stone, perforated and sculptured into the 
forms of animals and fruits, that he founded upon them the 
argument that they were relics of an ancient civilization from 

1 W. Cooke Taylor, The Nat. Hist, of Society ; London, 1840, vol. i. p. 205. 

2 £ee Eyre, vol. ii. p. 308 ; Klemm, C. G-., vol. i. p. 316, pi. vii. 


which their possessors had fallen. " But it is not," he says, 
" the Indians of our own day, the dwellers on the Oronoko and 
the Amazons whom we see in the last degree of brutalization, 
who have perforated substances of such hardness, giving them 
the shapes of animals and fruits. Such pieces of work, like 
the pierced and sculptured emeralds found in the Cordilleras 
of New Granada and Quito, indicate a previous civilization. At 
present the inhabitants of these districts, especially of the hot 
regions, have so little idea of the possibility of cutting hard 
stones (emerald, jade, compact felspar, and rock crystal), that 
they have imagined the green stone to be naturally soft when 
taken out of the ground, and to harden after it has been 
fashioned by hand." 1 But while mentioning Humboldt's argu- 
ment, it must also be said that he had not had an opportunity 
of learning how these ornaments were made. Mr. Wallace has 
since found that at least plain cylinders of imperfect rock crys- 
tal, four to eight inches long, and one inch in diameter,, are 
made and perforated by very low tribes on the Kio Negro. 
They are not, as Humboldt seems to have supposed, the result 
of high mechanical skill, but merely of the most simple and 
savage processes, carried on with that utter disregard of time 
that lets the Indian spend a month in making an arrow. They 
are merely ground down into shape by rubbing, and the per- 
forating of the cylinders, crosswise or even lengthwise, is said 
to be done thus : — a pointed flexible leaf-shoot of wild plantain 
is twirled with the hands against the hard stone, till, with the 
aid of fine sand and water, it bores into and through it, and 
this is said to take years to do. Such cylinders as the chiefs 
wear are said sometimes to take two men's lives to perforate. 2 
The stone is brought from a great distance up the river, and is 
very highly valued. It is, of course, not necessary to suppose 
that these rude Indians came of themselves to making such 
ornaments ; they may have imitated things made by races in a 
higher state of culture; but the evidence, as it now stands, 
does not go for much in proving that the tribes of the Eio 
Negro have themselves fallen from a higher level. 

1 Humboldt & Bonpland, vol. ii. p. 481, etc. 
3 Wallace, p. 278. 


On the other hand, it is mnch easier to go on pointing out arts 
practised by the less civilized races, which seem to have their 
fitting place rather in a history of progress than of degenera- 
tion. This remark applies to the case just mentioned, of the 
intermediate forms between the boomerang and the war-club 
being found in Australia, as though to mark the stages through 
which the perfect instrument had been developed. Several 
such cases occur among the arts of fire-making and cooking 
described in the following chapters. To glance for a moment 
at the history of Textile Fabrics (into which I hope to go more 
fully at a future time), it may be noticed that the spindle for 
twisting thread has been found in use in Asia, Africa, and North 
and South America, among people whose ruder neighbours had 
no better means of making their finest thread or cord than by 
twisting it with the hand, by rolling the fibres with the palm, 
on the thigh or some other part of the body. Again, though 
every known tribe appears to twist cord, and to make matting 
or wicker-work, the combination of these two arts, weaving, 
which consists in matting twisted threads, is very far from 
being general among the lower races. The step seems from our 
point of view a very simple one, but a large proportion of man- 
kind had never made it. Now there is a curious art, which is 
neither matting nor weaving, found among tribes to whom real 
weaving was unknown. It consists in laying bundles of fibres, 
not twisted into real cord, side by side, and tying or fastening 
them together with transverse cords or bands ; varieties of 
fabrics made in this way are well known in New Zealand and 
among the Indians of North- Western America ; and Mr. Henry 
Christy pointed out to me a sack-like basket made in this 
way, which he found in use in 1856 among an Indian tribe 
N.W. of Lake Huron, a very good example of this interesting 
transition- work. Nor do we look in vain for such a fabric in 
Europe; it is found in the Lake Habitations of Switzerland. M. 
Troyon's work shows a specimen from Wangen, which belongs 
to the Stone Age. 1 Mr. John Evans has three specimens of 
fabrics from the Swiss Lakes, which form a series of great in- 

1 Troyon, ' Habitations Lacustres ;' Lausanne, 1860, pi. vii. fig. 24, pp. 43, 429, 



terest. The first (Fig. 17) is also from Wangen, and, to use 
the description accompanying the sketches he has kindly given 
me, "the warp consists of strands of 
un-twisted fibre (hemp ?) bound to- 
gether at intervals of about an inch 
apart by nearly similar strands 'wat- 
tled in' among them." The next 
specimen (Fig. 18), from Nieder Wyl, 
shows a great advance, for u the warp 
consists of twisted string, and the woof 
of a finer thread also twisted." The 
third specimen is a piece of ordinary 
plain weaving. Now all these things, 
European, Polynesian, and American, 
seem to be in their natural and rea- 
sonable places in a progress upward, 
but it is hard to imagine a people, 
under any combination of circum- 
stances, dropping down from the art 
of weaving, to adopt a more tedious 
and less profitable way of working up 
the fibre which it had cost them so 
much trouble to prepare ; knowing Fl &- 17# 

the better art, and deliberately devoting their material and 
time to practising the worse. So it is a 
very reasonable and natural thing, that 
tribes who had been used to twist their 
thread by hand, should sometimes over- 
come their dislike to change, and adopt 
the spindle when they saw it in use ; or 
such a tribe might be supposed capable 
of inventing it ; but the going back from 
the spindle to hand-twisting is a thing 
scarcely conceivable. A spindle is made 
too easily by any one who has once caught 
the idea of it ; a stick and a bit of some- 
thing heavy for a whorl is the whole machine. Not many 
months ago/ an old lady was seen in the isle of Islay, comfort- 

Fig. 18. 


ably spinning her flax with a spindle, which spindle was simply 
a bit of stick with a potato stuck on the end of it. 

To conclude, the want of evidence leaves us as yet much in 
the dark as to the share which decline in civilization may have 
had in bringing the lower races into the state in which we find 
them. But perhaps this difficulty rather affects the history of 
particular tribes, than the history of Culture as a whole. To 
judge from experience, it would seem that the world, when it has 
once got a firm grasp of new knowledge or a new art, is very 
loth to lose it altogether, especially when it relates to matters 
important to man in general, for the conduct of his daily life, 
and the satisfaction of his daily wants, things that come home 
to men's u business and bosoms'." An inspection of the geo- 
graphical distribution of art and knowledge among mankind, 
seems to give some grounds for the belief that the history of 
the lower races, as of the higher, is not the history of a course 
of degeneration, or even of equal oscillations to and fro, but of 
a movement which, in spite of frequent stops and relapses, has 
on the whole been forward ; that there has been from age to 
age a growth in Man's power over Nature, which no degrading 
influences have been able permanently to check. 




The Stone Age is that period in the history of mankind during */ 
which stone is habitually used as a material for weapons and 
tools. Antiquaries find it convenient to make the Stone Age 
cease whenever metal implements come into common use, and 
the Bronze Age, or the Iron Age, supervenes. But the last 
traces of a Stone Age are hardly known to disappear anywhere, 
in spite of the general use of metals; and in studying this 
phase of the world's history for itself, it may be considered as 
still existing, not only among savages who have not fairly come 
to the use of iron, but even among civilized nations. Wher- 
ever the use of stone instruments, as they were used in the 
Stone Age proper, is to be found, there the Stone Age has not 
entirely passed away. The stone hammers with which tinkers 
might be found at work till lately in remote districts in Ire- 
land, 1 the huge stone mallets with wooden handles which are 
still used in Iceland for driving posts and other heavy hammer- 
ing, 2 and the lancets of obsidian with which the. Indians of 
Mexico still bleed themselves, as their fathers used to do before 
the Spanish Conquest, 3 are stone implements which have sur- 
vived for centuries the general introduction of iron. 

Mere natural stones, picked up and used without any arti- 
ficial shaping at all, are implements of a very low order. Such 

1 Wilde, Cat. of Mus. of R. I. Acad, j Dublin, 1857, p. 80. 

2 Klemm, ' Allgemeine Culturwissenschaft ;' Leipzig & Sondershausen, 1855-8, 
part ii. p. 86. 3 Brasseur, 'Mexique,' yol. iii. p. 640. 


natural tools are often found in use, being for the most part 
slabs, water-worn pebbles, and other stones suited for hammers 
and anvils, and their employment is no necessary proof of a 
very low state of culture. Among the lower races, Dr. Milligan 
gives a good instance of their use, in describing the shell- 
mounds left by the natives on the shores of Van Diemen's 
Land. In places where the shells found are univalves, round 
stones of different sizes are met with ; one, the larger, on which 
they broke the shells ; the other, and smaller, having served as 
the hammer to break them with. But where the refuse-mounds 
consist of oysters, mussels, cockles, and other bivalves, there 
flint-knives, used to open them with, are generally found. 1 Sir 
George Grey's description of the sites of native encampments, 
so frequently met with in Australia, will serve as another ex- 
ample. The remains of such an encampment consist of a circle 
of large flat stones arranged round the place where the fire has 
been ; on each of the flat stones a smaller stone for breaking 
shell-fish; beside each pair of stones a large shell used for a 
cup, and, scattered all around, broken shells and bones of 
kangaroos. 2 

Nor are cases hard to find of the use of these very low repre- 
sentatives of the Stone Age carried up into higher levels of 
civilization. Thus the tribes of Central and Southern Africa, 
though often skilful in smith's work, have not come thoroughly 
to the use of the iron hammer and anvil. Travellers describe 
them as forging their weapons and tools with a stone of handy 
shape and size, on a lump of rock which serves as an anvil ; 
while sometimes an iron hammer is used to give the last finish. 3 
The quantities of smooth rolled pebbles found in our ancient 
English hill-forts were probably collected for sling-stones ; but 
larger pebbles, very likely used as cracking-stones, are found 
in early European graves. 4 At the present day, the inhabitants 
of Heligoland and Kugen not only turn to account the natural 
net- sinkers formed by chalk-flints, out of which the remains of a 

1 Milligan, in Tr. Eth. Soc. ; London, 1863, vol. ii. p. 128. 

2 Grey, Journals, vol. i. pp. 71, 109. 

3 Casalis, p. 131 ; Petherick, p. 395 ; Burton, Central Africa, vol. ii. p. 312 ; 
Backhouse, Africa, p. 377. 4 Klemm, C. W., part ii. p. 87. 


sponge, or such thing, has been washed, leaving a convenient 
hole through the flint to tie it by ; but they have been known 
to turn such a perforated flint into a hammer, by fixing a 
handle in the hole. 1 And lastly, the women who shell almonds 
in the south of France still use a smooth water-worn pebble 
(couede, couedou), as their implement for breaking the shells. 

The distinction between natural and artificial implements is of 
no practical value in estimating the state of culture of a Stone- 
Age tribe. A natural chip or fragment of stone may have been 
now and then used as an edged or pointed tool ; but we have 
not the least knowledge of any tribe too low habitually to shape 
such instruments for themselves. There is, however, a well- 
marked line of distinction in the Stone Age which divides it 
into a lower and a higher section. We have no historical know- 
ledge of any tribe who have used stone instruments, and have 
not been in the habit of grinding or polishing some of them. 
But there are remains which clearly prove the existence of such 
tribes, and thus the Stone Age falls into two divisions, the Un- 
ground Stone Age and the Ground Stone Age. 3 

To the former and ruder of these two classes belong the in- 
struments of the Drift or Quaternary deposits, and of the early 
bone caves, and, in great part at least, those of the Scandinavian 
shell-heaps or kjokkenmoddings. Even should a few ground 
instruments prove to belong to these deposits, the case would 
not be much altered, for the finding of hundreds of unground 
implements unmixed with ground ones would still show a vast 
predominance of chipping over grinding, which would justify 
their being classed in an Unground Stone Age, quite distinct 
from the Ground Stone Age in which modern tribes have been 
found living. 

The rude flint implements found in the drift gravels of the 
Quaternary (i. e. Post-Tertiary) series of strata, belong to the 
earliest known productions of human art. Since the long un- 
appreciated labours of M. Boucher de Perthes showed the histo- 
rical importance of these relics, the date of the first appearance 
of man on the earth has been much debated. I have no pur- 
pose of attempting to discuss the collection of geological and 
1 Klemm, C. W., part ii. p. 12. 2 See Mr. Lubbock's Lectures, etc. 



antiquarian fact and argument brought forward in Sir Charles 
Lyell's c Antiquity of Man/ not only with reference to the men 
of the drift period, but to those of the bone caves, and of the 
early shell-heaps and peat-bogs. But it may be remarked that 
geological evidence, though capable of showing the lapse of vast 
periods of time, has scarcely admitted of these periods being 
brought into definite chronological, terms ; yet it is only geolo- 
gical evidence that has given any basis for determining the 
absolute date at which the makers of the drift implements lived 
in France and England. In an elaborate paper lately pub- 
lished, Mr. Prestwich infers, from the time it must have taken 
to excavate the river- valleys, even under conditions much more 
favourable than now to such action, and to bore into the under- 
lying strata the deep pipes or funnels now found lined with 
sand and gravel, that a very long period must have elapsed 
since the implement-bearing beds began to be laid down. But 
his opinion is against extreme estimates, and favours the view 
that the now undoubted contemporaneity of man with the mam- 
moth, the Rhinoceros tichorhinus, etc., is rather to be accounted 
for by considering that the great animals continued to live to a 
later period than had been supposed, than that the age of man 
on earth is to be stretched to fit with an enormous hypothetical 
date. Mr. Prestwich thus sums up his view of the subject, 
"That we must greatly extend our present chronology with 
respect to the first existence of man appears inevitable ; but 
that we should count by hundreds of thousands of years is, I am 
convinced, in the present state of the inquiry, unsafe and pre- 
mature/' 1 

A set of characteristic drift implements 2 would consist of 
certain tapering instruments like huge lance-heads, shaped, 
edged, and pointed, by taking off a large number of facets, in 
a way which shows a good deal of skill and feeling for sym- 
metry ; smaller leaf-shaped instruments ; flints partly shaped 
and edged, but with one end left unwrought, evidently for hold- 
ing in the hand ; scrapers with curvilinear edges ; rude flake- 

1 Prestwich, On the Geological Position and Age of the Flint-Implement-Bear- 
ing Beds, etc. (from Phil. Trans.) ; London, 1864. 

2 See Evans, < Flint Implements in the Drift ;' London, 1862. 


knives, etc. Taken as a whole, such a set of types would be 
very unlike, for instance, to a set of chipped instruments be- 
longing to the comparatively late period of the cromlechs in 
France and England. But a comparison of particular types 
with what is found elsewhere, breaks down any imaginary line 
of severance between the men of the Drift and the rest of the 
human species. The flake knives are very rude, but they are 
like what are found elsewhere, and there is no break in the 
series which ends in the beautiful specimens from Mexico and 
Scandinavia. The Tasmanians sometimes used for cutting or 
notching wood a very rude instrument. Eye-witnesses describe 
how they would pick up a suitable flat stone, knock off chips 
from one side, partly or all round the edge, and use it without 
more ado ; and there is a specimen corresponding exactly to 
this description in the Taunton Museum. An implement found 
in the Drift near Clermont would seem to be much like this. 
The drift tools with a chipped curvilinear edge at one end, 
which were probably used for dressing leather and other scrap- 
ing, are a good deal like specimens from America. The leaf- 
shaped instruments of the Drift differ principally from those of 
the Scandinavian shell-heaps, and of America, in being made 
less neatly and by chipping off larger flakes ; and there are 
leaf-shaped instruments which were used by the Mound- Builders 
of North America, perhaps for fixing as teeth in a war-club in 
Mexican fashion, 1 which differ rather in finish than in shape 
from the Drift specimens. Even the most special type of the 
Drift, namely, the pointed tapering implement like a great 
spear-head, differs from some American implements only in be- 
ing much rougher and heavier. There have been found in Asia 
stone implements resembling most closely the best marked of 
the Drift types. Mr. J. E. Taylor, British Consul at Basrah, 
obtained some years ago from the sun-dried brick mound of 
Abu Shahrein in Southern Babylonia, two taper pointed instru 
ments 2 of chipped flint, which, to judge from a cast of one oi 
them, would be passed without hesitation as drift implements. 
As to the date to which these remarkable specimens belong, 

1 Squier & Davis, p. 211. 

2 Vaux, in Proc. Soc. Ant., Jan. 19, 1860. 

o 2 


there is no sufficient evidence. Again, a stone instrument, 
found in a cave at Bethlehem, does not differ specifically from 
the Drift type. 

With the Unground Stone Age of the Drift, that of the 
Bone Caves is intimately connected. In the Drift, geological 
evidence shows that a long period of time must have been re- 
quired for the accumulation of the beds which overlie the flint 
implements, for the cutting out of the valleys to their present 
state, and so on, since the time when the makers of these rude 
tools and weapons inhabited France and England in company 
with the Rhinoceros tichorhinus, the mammoth, and other 
great animals now extinct. In the Bone Caves this natural 
calendar of strata accumulated and removed is absent, but 
their animal remains border on the fauna of the Drift, and the 
Drift series of stone implements passes into the Cave series, 1 
so that the men of the Drift may very well be the makers of 
some Cave implements contemporaneous with the great quater- 
nary mammals. 

The explorations made with such eminent skill and success 
in the caverns of M. Perigord by Mr. Lartet and Christy, 2 bring 
into view a wonderfully distinct picture of rude tribes inhabit- 
ing the south of France, at a remote period characterized by a 
fauna strangely different from that at present belonging to the 
district, the reindeer, the aurochs, the chamois, and so forth. 
They seem to have been hunters and fishers, having no domes- 
ticated animals, not even the dog ; but they made themselves 
rude ornaments, they sewed with needles with eyes, and they 
decorated their works in bone, not only with hatched and waved 
patterns, but with carvings of animals done with considerable 
skill and taste. Yet their stone implements were very rude, 
to a great extent belonging to absolute Drift types, and desti- 
tute of grinding, with one curious set of exceptions, certain 
granite pebbles with a smooth hollowed cavity, some of which 
resemble stones used by the Australians for grinding some- 

1 See, for instance, W. Boyd Dawkins, in Proc. Somersetshire Archaeological 
Soc, 1861-2, p. 197. 

2 Lartet & Christy, ■ Caveme3 du Perigord ;' Paris, 1864 (from ' Kevue Archeo- 


thing in, perhaps paint to adorn themselves with. It is very- 
curious to find these French tribes going so far in the art of 
shaping tools by grinding, and yet, so far as we know, never 
catching the idea of grinding a celt. 

The stone implements of the Scandinavian shell-heaps are a 
good deal like those *of the Drift and the Caves, as regards 
their flint-flakes and leaf-shaped instruments, but they are 
characterized by the frequent occurrence of a kind of celt 
which is not a Drift type. It is rudely shaped from the flint, 
the natural fracture of which gives it a curved form which may 
be roughly compared to that of a man's front tooth, if it ta- 
pered from root to edge. 1 Here, also, the Unground Stone 
Age prevails, though a very few specimens of higher types 
have been found. I may quote Mr. Christy's opinion that the 
thousands of characteristic implements are to be taken as the 
standard of what was made and used, while, as has very often 
happened in old deposits lying in accessible situations, a few 
things may have got in in comparatively modern times. 

Beside the want of grinding, the average quality of the 
instruments of the Unground Stone Age is very low, not- 
withstanding that its best specimens are far above the level of 
the worst of the later period. These combined characters of 
rudeness and the absence of grinding give the remains of the 
Unground Stone Age an extremely important bearing on the 
history of Civilization, from the way in which they bring to- 
gether evidence of great rudeness and great antiquity. The 
antiquity of the Drift implements is, as has been said, proved 
by direct geological evidence. The Cave implements, even of 
the reindeer period, are proved by their fauna to be earlier, as 
they are seen at a glance to be ruder, than those of the crom- 
lech period, and of the earliest lake- dwellings of Switzerland, 
both belonging to the Ground Stone Age. To the student who 
views Human Civilization as in the main an upward develop- 
ment, a more fit starting-point could scarcely be offered than 
this wide and well-marked progress from an earlier and lower, 
to a later and higher, stage of the history of human art. 

1 Lubbock in Nat. Hist. Keview, Oct, 1861. Morlot in Soc. Yaudoise des Sc. 
Nat., 1859. 


To turn now to the productions of the higher or Ground 
Stone Age, grinding is found rather to supplement chipping 
than to supersede it. Implements are very commonly chipped 
into shape before they are ground, and unfinished articles of this 
kind are often found. Moreover, such things as flake-knives, 
and heads for spears and arrows, have seldom or never been 
ground in any period, early or late, for the obvious reason that 
the labour of grinding them would have been wasted, or worse. 
Flake -knives of obsidian appear to have been sometimes 
finished by grinding in Mexico, 1 but most stone knives of the 
kind seem to have been used as they were flaked off. This 
question of grinding or not grinding stone implements is 
brought out clearly by some remarks of Captain Cook's, on his 
first voyage to the South Seas. He noticed that the natives of 
Tahiti used basalt to make their adzes of, and these it was ne- 
cessary to sharpen almost every minute, for which purpose a 
stone and a cocoa-nut shell full of water were kept always at 
hand. When he saw the New Zealanders using, for the finish- 
ing of their nicest work, small tools of jasper, chipped off from 
a block in sharp angular pieces like a gunflint, and throwing 
them away as soon as they were blunted, he concluded they 
did not grind them afresh because they could not. 2 This, how- 
ever, was not the true reason, as their grinding jade and other 
hard stones clearly shows ; but it was simply easier to make 
new ones than to grind the old. A good set of implements of 
the Ground Stone Age will consist partly of instruments made 
by mere chipping, such as varieties of spear-heads, arrow-heads, 
and flake-knives, and partly of ground implements, the principal 
classes of which are celts, axes, and hammers. 

The word celt (Latin celtis, a chisel) is a convenient term 
for including the immense mass of instruments which have the 
simple shape of chisels, and might have been used as such. No 
doubt many or most of them were really for mounting on han- 
dles, and using as adzes or axes ; but in the absence of a han- 
dle, or a place for one, or a mark where one has been, it is often 
impossible to set down any particular specimen as certainly 

1 Torquemada, ' Monarquia Indiana ;' Seville, 1615, vol. ii. p. 527. 
3 Cook, First Toy. H., vol. ii. p. 220 j vol. iii. p. 60. 


a chisel, an axe, or an adze. When, however, the cutting edge 
is hollowed as in a gouge, it is no longer possible to use it as 
an axe, though it retains the other two possible uses of chisel 
and adze. The water-worn pebblej in which a natural edge has 
been made straighter and sharper by grinding, may be taken , 
as the original and typical form of the celt. Rude South Ame- 
rican tribes select suitable water- worn stones and rub down 
their edges, sometimes merely grasping them in the hand to 
use them, and sometimes mounting them in a wooden handle ; 
and axes made in this way, by grinding the edge of a suitable 
pebble, and fixing it in a*withfc handle, are known in Australia. 
Moreover, the class to which this almost natural instrument 
belongs, that, namely, which has a double-convex cross sec- 
tion, is far more numerous and universally distributed than the 
double-flat, concavo-convex, triangular, or other forms. 

Where artificially-shaped celts are found only chipped over, 
in high Stone Age deposits, as in Scandinavia, they are ge- 
nerally to be considered as unfinished ; but when celts of hard 
stone are found only ground near the edge, and otherwise left 
rough from chipping, they may be taken as denoting a rude ^ 
state of art. Thus flint celts ground only near the edge are 
found in Northern Europe, and even in Denmark ; but in general 
celts of the hardest stone are found, during the Ground- Stone 
Age, conscientiously ground and polished all over, and every 
large celt of hard stone which is finished to this degree repre- 
sents weeks or months of labour, done not so much for any "|p> 
technical advantage, as for the sake of beauty and artistic p\ 

The primitive hammer, still used in some places, is an oval 
pebble, held in the hand. Above this comes the natural peb- 
ble, or the artificially- shaped stone, which is grooved or notched 
to have a bent withe fastened round it as a handle, as our smiths 
mount heavy chisels. Above this again is the highest kind, 
the stone hammer with a hole through it for the handle. This 
is not found out of the Old World, perhaps not out of Europe ; 
and even the Mexicans, who in many things rivalled or excelled 
the stone-workers of ancient Europe, do not seem to have got 
beyond grooving their hammers. The stone axe proper, as 



distinguished from the mere celt by its more complex shape, 
and by its being bored or otherwise fitted for a handle, is best 
represented in the highest European Stone Age, and in the 
transition to the Bronze Age. 

Special instruments and varieties are of great interest to the 
Ethnographer, as giving individuality to the productions of the 
Stone Age of different times and places. Thus, the rude trian- 
gular flakes of obsidian with which the Papuans head their 
spears are very characteristic of their race. These spears were 
probably what they were using in Schouten's time ; " long 
staves with very long sharpe things at the ends thereof, which 
(as we thought) were finnes of black fishes." 1 Among celts, 
the Polynesian adze blade, to be seen in almost any museum, 
is a well-marked type ; as is the American double hatchet, 2 and 
an elaborately-formed American knife. 3 The Pech's knives or 
Pict's knives, of Shetland, made from a rock with a slaty 
cleavage, seem peculiar. They appear to be efficient instru- 
ments, as an old woman was seen cutting cabbage with one not 
long since. 

As there are a good many special instruments like these in 
different parts of the world, the idea naturally suggests itself of 
trying to use them as ethnological evidence, to prove connexion 
or intercourse between two districts where a similar thing is 
found. For instance, among the most curious phenomena in 
the history of stone implements is the occurrence of one of the 
highest types of the Stone Age, the polished celt of green jade, 
of all places in the world, in Australia, where the general cha- 
racter of the native stone implements is so extremely low. 
There is a quarry of this very hard and beautiful stone in Vic- 
toria, and the natives on the river Glenelg grind it into double- 
convex hatchet blades, a process which must require great la- 
bour, and these blades they fix with Dative thread into cleft 
sticks, and use them as battle-axes. Two of the blades in 
question are in the Museum of the Society of Antiquaries 
in Edinburgh, presented by Dr. Mackay, who got them near 

1 Purchas, vol. i. p. 95. 2 Schoolcraft, part ii. pi. 48, figs. 1 and 2. 

3 Id., part ii. pi. 45, figs. 1-3. Another specimen in the Edinburgh Antiquaries' 
Museum, presented by Dr. Daniel Wilson. 


the place where they were made. They are only inferior 
to the finest celts of the same material from New Zealand, 
in wanting the accuracy of outline which the Maori would have 
given, and the conscientious labour with which he would have 
ground down the whole surface till every inequality or flaw 
had disappeared, whereas the Australian has been content 
with polishing into the hollow places, instead of grinding them 
out. Were we obliged to infer, from the presence of these 
high-class celts in Australia, that the natives in one part of the 
country had themselves developed the making of stone imple- 
ments so immensely beyond the rest of their race, while they 
remained in other respects in the same low state of civilization, 
the quality of stone implements would have to be pretty much 
given up as a test of culture anywhere. Fortunately there is 
an easier way out of the difficulty. Polished instruments of 
this green jade have been, long ago or recently, one of the 
most important items of manufacture in the islands of the 
Indian Ocean and the Pacific, and the South Australians may 
have learnt from some Malay or Polynesian source the art of 
shaping these high-class weapons. The likelihood of this being 
their real history is strengthened by proofs we have of inter- 
course between Australia and the surrounding islands. Besides 
the known yearly visits of the trepang-fishers of Macassar to 
the Gulf of Carpentaria, and the appearance of the outrigger- 
canoe in East Australia in Captain Cook's time, there is my- 
thological evidence which seems to carry proof of connexion far 
down the east coast. 

Another coincidence of this kind may be mentioned here, 
though in the absence of collateral evidence it would be un- 
wise to draw any conclusion from it. There is a well-known 
New Zealand weapon, the mere, or jodtu-pdtu. It is an edged 
club of bone or stone, which has been compared to a beaver's 
tail, or is still more like a soda-water bottle with the bulb 
flattened, and it is a very effective weapon in a hand-to-hand 
fight, being so sharp that a man's skull may be split at one 
blow with it. Through the neck it has a hole for a wrist-cord. 
The mere is made of the bone of a whale, or of stone, and the 
finest, which are of green jade and worked with immense 


labour, were among the most precious heirlooms of the Maori 
Chiefs. One would think that such a peculiar weapon was 
hardly likely to be made independently by 
two races ; but Klemm gives a drawing of a 
sharp-edged Peruvian weapcn, of dark brown 
jasper, 1 which is so exactly like the New Zea- 
land mere, even to the wrist-cord, that a single 
drawing of one of the latter, shown in front 
and profile in Fig. 19, will serve for both. 
There can hardly be a mistake about this 
weapon being really Peruvian, for another 
from Cuzco, of a greenish amphibolic stone, 
is figured by Rivero and Tschudi, 2 curiously 
enough, in company with a wooden war-club, 
Fig. 19. from Tunga in Colombia which is hardly distin- 

guishable from a common Polynesian form. If we knew of any 
connexion between the civilizations of Peru and the South Sea 
l^*^ Islands, these extraordinary resemblances might be accounted 
for without hesitation, as caused by direct transmission. 

When, however, their full value . has been given to the dif- 
ferences in the productions of the Ground Stone Age, there 
remains a residue of a most remarkable kind. In the first 
place, a very small number of classes, flake-knives, scrapers, 
spear and arrow-heads, celts and hammers, take in the great 
mass of specimens in museums ; and in the second place, the 
prevailing character of these implements, whether modern or 
thousands of years old, whether found on this side of the world 
or the other, is a marked uniformity. The Ethnographer who 
has studied the stone implements of Europe, Asia, North or 
South America, or Polynesia, may consider the specimens from 
the district he has studied, as types from which those of other 
districts differ, as a class, by the presence or absence of a few 
peculiar instruments, and individually in more or less impor- 
tant details of shape and finish, unless, as sometimes happens, 
they do not perceptibly differ at all. So great is this uni- 
formity in the stone implements of different places and times, 

1 Klemm, C. W., part ii. p. 26. 

2 Kivero & Tschudi, Ant. Per. Plates, pi. xxxiii. 


that it goes far to neutralize their value as distinctive of dif- 
ferent races. It is clear that no great help in tracing the 
minute history of the growth and migration of tribes, is to be 
got from an arrow-head which might have come from Pata- 
gonia, or Siberia, or the Isle of Man, or from a celt which 
might be, for all its appearance shows, Mexican, Irish, or 
Tahitian. If an observer, tolerably acquainted with stone 
implements, had an unticketed collection placed before him, 
the largeness of the number of specimens which he would not 
confidently assign, by mere inspection, to their proper coun- 
tries, would serve as a fair measure of their general uniformity. 
Even when aided by mineralogical knowledge, often a great 
help, he would have to leave a large fraction of the whole in 
an unclassed heap, confessing that he did not know within 
thousands of miles or thousands of years, where and when 
they were made. 

How, then, is this remarkable uniformity to be explained? 
The principle that man does the same thing under the same 
circumstances will account for much, but it is very doubtful 
whether it can be stretched far enough to account for even the 
greater proportion of the facts in question. The other side of 
the argument is, of course, that resemblance is due to con- 
nexion, and the truth is made up of the two, though in what 
proportions we do not know. It may be that, though the pro- 
blem is too obscure to be worked out alone, the uniformity of 
development in different regions of the Stone Age may some 
day be successfully brought in with other lines of argument, 
based on deep-lying agreements in culture, which tend to 
centralize the early history of races of very unlike appearance, 
and living in widely distant ages and countries. 

To turn to an easier branch of the subject, I have brought 
together here, as a contribution to the history of the Stone 
Age, a body of evidence which shows that it has prevailed in 
ancient or up to modern times, in every great district of the 
inhabited world. By the aid of this, it may be possible to 
sketch at least some rude outline of the history of its gradual 
decline and fall, which followed on the introduction of metal in 
later periods, up to our own times, when the universal use of 


iron has left nothing of the ancient state of things, except a few 
remnants of interest to ethnologists and antiquaries, but of no 
practical importance to the world at large. 

In the first place, there are parts of the world whose inha- 
bitants, when they were discovered in modern times by more 
advanced races, were found not possessed of metals, but using 
stone, shell, bone, split canes, and so forth, for purposes in 
making tools and weapons to which we apply metals. Now as 
we have no evidence that the inhabitants of Australia, the 
South Sea Islands, and a considerable part of North and South 
America, had ever been possessed of metals, it seems reason- 
able to consider these districts as countries where original 
Stone Age conditions had never been interfered with, until 
they came within the range of European discovery. 

But in other parts of North and South America, such inter- 
ference had already taken place before the time of Columbus. 
The native copper of North America had been largely used by 
the race known to us as the " Mound Builders," who have left 
as memorials of their existence the enormous mounds and 
fortifications of the Mississippi Yalley. 1 They do not seem to 
have understood the art of melting copper, or even of forging 
it hot, but to have treated it as a kind of malleable stone, 
which they got in pieces out of the ground, or knocked off 
from the great natural blocks, and hammered into knives, 
chisels, axes, and ornaments. The use of native copper was 
by no means confined to the Mound Builders, for the European 
explorers found it in use for knives, ice-chisels, ornaments, 
etc., in the northern part of the continent, especially among 
the Esquimaux and the Canadian Indians. 2 The copper which 
Captain Cook found in abundance among the Indians of Prince 
William's Sound, was no doubt native. 3 Even meteoric iron 
has been found in use among the Esquimaux. There is a 
harpoon-point of walrus tusk in the British Museum, headed 

1 See Squier & Davis, etc. 

2 Squier, Abor. Mon. of State of N. Y., Smithsonian Contr. ; Washington, 
1851, pp. 176-7. Sir J. Richardson, ' The Polar Regions j ' Edinburgh, 1861» 
p. 308. Hakluyt, vol. iii. p. 230. Klemm, C. G., vol. ii. p. 18. 

3 Cook, Third Voy., vol. ii. p. 380. 


with a blade of meteoric iron, and a knife, also of tusk, which 
is edged by fixing in a row of chips of meteoric iron along a 
groove. But these instruments do not appear old; they are 
just like those in which the Esquimaux at present mount 
morsels of European iron, and there is no evidence that they* 
used their native meteoric iron, until their intercourse with 
Europeans in modern times had taught them the nature and 
use of the metal. It is indeed very strange that there should 
be no traces found among them of knowledge of metal-work, 
and of other arts, which one would expect a race so receptive 
of foreign knowledge to have got from contact with the 
Northmen, in the tenth and following centuries; but I have 
not succeeded in finding any distinct evidence of the kind. 

In the lower part of the Northern Continent, in Peru and 
some other districts of the Southern, the Stone Age was not 
extinct at the time of Columbus ; it was indeed in a state of 
development hardly surpassed anywhere in the world, but at 
the same time several metals were in common use. Gold and 
silver were worked with wonderful skill, but chiefly for orna- 
mental purposes. Though almost all the gold and silver work 
of Mexico has long ago gone to the melting-pot, there are still 
a few specimens which show that the Spanish conquerors were 
not romancing in the wonderful stories they told of the skill 
of the native goldsmiths. I have seen a pair of gold eagle orna- 
ments in the Berlin Museum, which will compare almost with 
the Etruscan work for design and delicacy of finish. But what 
is still more important is that bronze, made of well-judged pro- 
portions of copper and tin, was "in use on both continents. 
The Peruvians used bronze, and perhaps copper also, for tools 
and weapons. The Mexican bronze axe-blades are to be seen 
in collections, and we know by the picture-writings that both 
the Mexicans 1 and the builders of the ruined cities of Central 
America, 2 mounted them by simply sticking them into a 
wooden club, as the modern African mounts his iron axe-blade. 
The little bronze bells of Mexico 3 and South America are cored 
castings, which are by no means novice' s work, and other 

1 Mendoza Codex, in Kingsborough, vol. i. 2 Dresden Codex, id. 
3 Tylor, ■ Mexico ;' p. 236. 


bronze castings from the latter country are even more remark- 
able. 1 

How the arts of working gold, silver, copper, and bronze 
came into America, we do not know, nor can we even tell 
♦whether their appearance on the Northern and Southern Con- 
tinent was independent or not. It is possible to trace Mexican 
connexion down to Nicaragua, and perhaps even to the Isth- 
mus of Panama, while on the other hand the northern inhabi- 
tants of South America were not unacquainted with the na- 
tions farther down the continent. But no certain proof of 
connexion or intercourse of any kind between Mexico and 
Peru seems as yet to have been made out. All that we know 
certainly is that gold, silver, copper, tin, and bronze had there 
intruded themselves among the implements and ornaments of 
worked stone, though they had scarcely made an approach to 
driving them out of use, and that the traditions of both conti- 
nents ascribed their higher culture to certain foreigners who 
were looked upon as supernatural beings. If we reason upon 
the supposition that these remarkably unanimous legends may 
perhaps contain historical, in combination with mythical ele- 
ments, the question suggests itself, where, for a thousand or 
fifteen hundred years before the Spanish discovery, were men 
to be found who could teach the Mexicans and Peruvians to 
make bronze, and could not teach them to smelt and work 
iron ? The people of Asia seem the only men on whose behalf 
such a claim can be sustained at all. The Massagetae of Cen- 
tral Asia were in the Bronze Age in the time of Herodotus, 
who, describing their use of bronze for spear and arrow-heads, 
battle-axes, and other things, and of gold rather for ornamental 
purposes, remarks that they make no use of iron or silver, for 
they have none in their country, while gold and bronze abound. 2 
Four centuries later, Strabo modifies this remark, saying that 
they have no silver, little iron, but abundance of gold and 
bronze. 3 The Tatars were in the Iron Age when visited by 
mediaeval travellers, and the history of the transition from 
bronze to iron in Central Asia, of which we seem to have here 

1 Ewbank, < Brazil;' New York, 1856, pp. 454-463. 

2 Herod., i. 215. > Strabo, xi. 8, 6. 


a glimpse, is for the most part obscure. The matter is, how- 
ever, the more worthy of remark from its bearing on the argu- 
ment for the connexion of the culture of Mexico and that of 
Asia, grounded by Humboldt on the similarities in the mytho- 
logy and the calendar of the two districts. 

If we now turn to the history of the Stone Age in Asia, 
Africa, and Europe, we shall indeed find almost everywhere 
evidence of a Stone Period, which preceded a Bronze or Iron 
Period, but this is only to be had in small part from the direct 
inspection of races living without metal implements. The 
Kamchadals of north-eastern Asia, a race as yet ethnologically 
isolated, were found by the Kosak invaders using cutting-tools 
of stone and bone. It is recorded that with these instruments 
it took them three years to hollow out a canoe, and one year 
to scoop out one of the wooden troughs in which they cooked 
their food ; 1 but probably a large allowance for exaggeration 
must be made in this story. It is curious to notice that, thirty 
or forty years ago, Erman got in Kamchatka one of the Stone 
Age relics found in such enormous numbers in Mexico, a fluted 
prism of obsidian, off which a succession of stone blades had 
been flaked; but though one would have thought that the 
i comparatively recent use of stone instruments in the country 
would have been still fresh in the memory of the people, the 
natives who dug it up had no idea what it was. 2 Stone knives, 
moreover, have been found in the high north-east of Siberia, 
on the site of deserted yourts of modern date, said to have 
been occupied by the settled Chukchi, or Shalags. 3 

In China, the following curious passage seems to record a 
comparatively modern use of stone implements. Eeferring to 
Nan-hiu-fu, in the province of Kwan-tong, in Southern China, 
it is stated, " They find, in the mountains and among the rocks 
which surround it, a heavy stone, so hard that hatchets and 
other cutting instruments are made from it." 4 It is to be 
remembered that China is not inhabited only by the race 
usually known to us as the Chinese, but by another, or several 

1 Kracheninnikow, p. 29. 2 Erman, ' Keise,' vol. iii. p. 453. 

3 Sarytschew, in Coll. of Mod. etc., Voy. and Tr. ; London, 1807, vol. v. p. 35. 

* Grosier, ' De la Chine ;' Paris, 1818, vol. i. p. 191. 


other far less cultured races ; the mountaius of Kwan-tong and 
the other southern provinces being especially inhabited by such 
rude and seemingly aboriginal tribes. There is, besides, a Chi- 
nese tradition speaking of the use of stone for weapons among 
themselves in early times, which implies at least the knowledge 
that this is a state of things characterizing a race at a low stage 
of culture, and may really embody a recollection of their own 
early history ; Fu-hi, they say, made weapons. These were of 
wood, those of Shin-nung were of stone, and Chi-yu made 
metal ones. 1 

Among the great Tatar race to which the Turks and Mon- 
gols, and our Hungarians, Lapps, and Finns belong, accounts 
of a Stone Age may be found, in the most remarkable of which 
the widely prevailing idea that stone instruments found buried 
in the ground are thunderbolts, is very well brought into view. 
In the Chinese Encyclopaedia of the emperor Kang-hi, who 
began to reign in 1662, the following passage occurs : — 

" ' Lightning -stones.' — The shape and substance of lightning- 
stones vary according to place. The wandering Mongols, 
whether of the coasts of the eastern sea, or the neighbourhood 
of the Sha-mo, use them in the manner of copper and steel. 
There are some of. these stones which have the shape of a * 
hatchet, others that of a knife, some are made like mallets. 
These lightning-stones are of different colours; there are 
blackish ones, others are greenish. A romance of the time of 
the Tang, says that there was at Yu-men-si a great Miao de- 
dicated to the Thunder, and that the people of the country 
used to make offerings there of different things, to get some of 
these stones. This fable is ridiculous. The lightning-stones are 
metals, stones, pebbles, which the fire of the thunder has meta- 
morphosed by splitting them suddenly and uniting inseparably 
different substances. There are some of these stones in which 
a kind of vitrification is distinctly to be observed." 2 

Moreover, within the last century the Tunguz of North- 
Eastern Siberia, belonging to the same Tatar race, were using 

1 G-oguet, vol. iii. p. 331. 

2 ' Memoires concernant l'Histoire, etc., des Chinois, par les Missionnaires de 
Pekin ;' Paris, 1776, etc., yol. iv. p. 474. Klemm, C. Gh, vol. vi. p. 467. 


stone arrow-heads, 1 while Tacitus long before made a similar 
remark as to their relatives the Finns, whose " only hope is in 
their arrows, which, from want of iron, they make sharp with 
bones." " Sola in sagittis spes, quas, inopia ferri, ossibus as- 
perant." 2 But the Tunguz have been expert iron-workers as 
long as we have any distinct knowledge of them, and arrow- 
heads of stone and bone may survive, for an indefinite number 
of centuries, the main part of the Stone Age to which they 
properly belong. Even the Egyptians, in the height of their 
civilization, used stone arrow-heads in hunting, notwithstanding 
their vast wealth of bronze and iron. The peculiar arrows 
which are being shot at wild oxen in the bas-reliefs of Beni 
Hassan 3 are still to be seen in collections ; they are special as 
to their wedge-shaped flint heads, fixed with the broad edge 
foremost, a shape like that of the wooden-headed bird -bolts 
of the Middle Ages. The stone arrow-heads found on the 
battle-field of Marathon are often described, but they may have 
all been shot by the barbarian troops, and most others found 
in Greece are probably prae- Aryan. It is clear that metal must 
be very common and cheap to be used in so wasteful a way as 
in heading an arrow, perhaps only for a single shot. 

If we go back eighteen hundred years, an account may be 
found of a people living under Stone Age conditions in a part 
of Asia much less remote than Tartary and China. Strabo 
gives the following description of the fish-eaters inhabiting the 
coast of the present Beloochistan, on the Arabian Sea, and, 
like the Aleutian Islanders of modern times, building their huts 
of the bones of whales, with their jaws for doorways : — " The 
country of the Ichthyophagi is a low coast, for the most part 
without trees, except palms, a sort of acanthus, and tamarisks ; 
of water and cultivated food there is a dearth. Both the peo- 
ple and their cattle eat fish, and drink rain- and well-water, 
and the flesh of the cattle tastes of fish. In making their dwell- 
ings, they mostly use the bones of whales, and oyster- shells, 
the ribs serving for beams and props, and the jaw-bones for 

1 Rarenstein, p. 4. 

2 Tae. Germ. xlvi. ; and see Grimm, G. D. S., vol. i. p. 173. 

3 Wilkinson, Pop. Ace., vol. i. pp. 222, 353. 


doorways; the vertebrae they use form ortars, in which they 
pound their sun-dried fish, and of this, with the mixture of 
a little corn, they make bread, for, though they have no iron, 
they have mills. And this is the less wonderful, seeing that 
they can get the mills from elsewhere, but how can they dress 
the millstones when worn down? with the stones, they say, 
with which they sharpen their arrows and darts [of wood, 
with points] hardened in the fire. Of the fish, part they cook 
in ovens, but most they eat raw, and they catch them in nets 
of palm-bark/' 1 

Though direct history gives but partial means of proving the 
existence of a Stone Age over Asia and Europe, the finding of 
ancient stone tools and weapons, in almost every district of 
these two continents, proves that they were in former times in- 
habited by Stone Age races, though whether in any particular 
spot the tribes we first find living there are their descendants 
as well as their successors, this evidence cannot tell us. How, 
for instance, are we to tell what race made and used the ob- 
sidian flakes which were found with polished agate and carne- 
lian beads under the chief corner-stone of the great temple 
of Khorsabad ? All through Western Asia, and north of the 
Himalaya, stone implements are scattered broadcast through the 
land. Further east, the account of the lightning- stones, just 
quoted from the Encyclopaedia of Kang-hi, goes to prove that 
stone implements are found in China, and therefore that the 
inhabitants once made and used them ; and this inference espe- 
cially makes it probable that the legend of stone weapons 
having been once in use may be a piece of genuine traditional 

Japan abounds in Stone Age relics, of which Yan Siebold 
has given drawings and descriptions in his great work ; 2 and 
his own collection at Leyden is very rich in specimens. The 
arrow-heads of obsidian, flint, chert, etc., are of types like those 
found elsewhere. Their presence is sometimes accounted for 
by stories that they were rained from the sky, or that every 

1 Strabo, xt. 2, 2. 

2 Ph. Fr. v. Siebold, Nippon, Archiv zur Beschreibung von Japan ; Leyden, 
1832, etc., part ii. plates xi. to xiii. pp. 45, etc. 


year an army of spirits fly through the air with rain and storm ; 
when the sky clears, people go out and hunt in the sand for the 
stone arrows they have dropped. The arrow-heads are found 
most abundantly in the north of the great island of Nippon, in 
the so-called land of the Wild Men, a population who were only 
late and with difficulty brought under the Mikado dynasty, 
and who belong to the same Aino race as the present inha- 
bitants of the island of Jesso and the southern Kuriles. In 
Japan, stone celts are frequently to be found in the collections 
of minerals of native amateurs, and they are still sometimes 
dug up with other objects of stone. They seem only of average 
symmetry and finish. Here, again, the natives call such a 
stone celt a " thunderbolt/' Bai fu seki, or Tengu no masalcari, 
" battleaxe of Tengu/' Tengu being the guardian of heaven. 
The notion is also current that they are implements of the Evil 
Spirit, whose symbol is the fox, whence the names of w Fox- 
hatchet/' " Fox-plane." As a fox-plane, a double-flat celt is 
shown in Siebold's plates, which may have served the purpose 
of a plane, or, if it was fixed to a handle, that of an adze. Re- 
gularly shaped stone knives (not mere flakes) are represented ; 
some are like the stone knives of Egypt, but rougher; the 
Japanese recognise them as " stone-knives." Some which 
have been dug up are kept in the temples as relics of the time 
of the Kami, the spirits or divinities from whom the Japanese 
hold themselves to be descended, and whose worship is the old 
religion of the Japanese, the way or doctrine of the Kami, 
more commonly known by the Chinese term, Sin-tu. Some 
stone knives, drawn by Siebold on Japanese authority, seem 
to be of a slaty rock, which has admitted of their being very 
neatly made in curious shapes. One very highly finished spe- 
cimen is called the stone knife of the " Green Dragon," a term 
which may be explained by the fact that the conventional 
dragon of Japan has a sword at the end of his tail. 

Again, Java abounds in very high-class stoue implements, 
and such things are found on the Malay peninsula, though in 
both these districts the natives, unlike the Polynesians, whose 
language is so closely connected with theirs, do not even know 



what stone celts are, and hold with so many other nations that 
they are thunderbolts. 1 

In India, an account of the discovery by Mr. H. P. Le Me- 
surier of a great number of ancient stone celts was published 
in 1861. He found them stored up in villages of the Jubbul- 
pore district, near the Mahadeos, and in other sacred places ; 
and since then many more have been met with by other ob- 
servers. 2 Mr. Christy's specimens are ordinary stone celts of 
indifferent quality. 

In Europe, ancient stone implements are found from east to 
west, and from north to south, the relics perhaps of races now 
extinct, or absorbed in others, or of the Tatar population of 
Finland and Lapland, or of that unclassed race which survives 
in the Basque population about the Pyrenees, who, unlike the 
Finns and Lapps, cannot as yet claim relationship with a sur- 
viving parent stock. 

As to our own Aryan or Indo-European race, our first know- 
ledge of it, at the remote period of which a picture has been 
reconstructed by the study of the Yedas, and a comparison of 
the Sanskrit with other Aryan tongues, shows a Bronze Age 
prevailing among them when they set out on their migrations 
from Central Asia to found the Aryan nations, the Indians, 
Persians, Greeks, Germans, and the rest. 3 A general view of 
the succession of metal to stone all over the world, justifies a 
belief that the Aryans were no exception to the general rule, 
and that they, too, used stone instruments before they had 
metal ones ; but there is little known evidence bearing on the 
matter beyond that of a few Aryan words, which are worth men- 
tioning, though they will not carry much weight of argument. 

The nature of this evidence may be made clear, by noticing 
how it comes into existence in places where the introduction of 
metal is matter of history. In these places it sometimes hap- 

1 Yates, in c Archaeological Journal,' No. 42. Earl, ■ Papuans,' pp. 175-6. 

2 Le Mesurier, in Journ. As. Soc. Bengal, 1861, No. 1, p. 81. Theobald, 
As. Soc, Apr. 1864, etc. etc. 

3 Weber, ' Indische Skizzen;' Berlin, 1857, p. 9. Max Muller, Lectures 
second series, p. 230,etc. 


pens that old words, referring to stone and stone instruments, 
are transferred to metal and metal instruments, and these 
words take their place as relics of the Stone Age preserved in 
language. Thus, in North America the Algonquin names for 
copper and brass are mishwaubik and ozawaubik, that is to say, 
"red-stone" and " yellow- stone ;" while the name e-reel', that 
is, " stone," is used by some Indian tribes of California for all 
metals indiscriminately. In the Delaware language, oyeek is 
u white," and assuun is ' ' stone ;" so that it is evident that the 
name of silver, opussuun, means "white- stone," while the ter- 
mination " stone" is discernible in uisauaasun, " gold." In the 
Man dan language, the words mahi, " knife," and mahitsliuke, 
" flint," are clearly connected. 1 Having thus examples of the 
way in which the Stone Age has left its mark in language, in 
races among whom it has been superseded within our know- 
ledge, it is natural that we should expect to find words marking 
the same change, in the speech of men who made the same 
transition in times not clearly known to history. What has 
been done in this way as yet comes to very little, but Jacob 
Grimm has set an example by citing two words, hammer, Old 
Norse hamarr, meaning both " hammer" and " rock," and Latin 
saxum, a name possibly belonging to a time when instruments 
to cut with, secare, were still of stone, and which still keeps 
close to Old German salts, Anglo-Saxon seax, a knife. 2 There 
may possibly be some connexion between sagitta, arrow, and 
saxum, stone, and in like manner between Sanskrit qili, arrow, 
gild, stone, while in the Semitic family of languages, Hebrew 
yfl, chetz, arrow, t^n, chatzatz, gravel-stone, are both related 
to the verb Y^H, cn ^ za ^t to cut. But against the inference 
from these words, that their connexion belongs to a time when 
stone was the usual material for sharp instruments, there lies 
this strong objection, that knife and stone might get from the 
same root names expressing sharpness, or any other quality 
they have in common, without having anything directly to do 
with one another, while the same word, hamar, may have been 
found an equally suitable name for " hammer " and " rock," 

1 Schoolcraft, part ii. pp. 389, 397, 463, 506 ; part iii. pp. 426, 448. 

2 Grimm, D. M., p. 165 ; G.D.S., p. 610. 


without the hammer being so called because all hammers were 
originally stones. 1 

Among the Semitic race, however, it seems possible to bring 
forward better evidence than this of an early Stone Age. If 
we follow one way of translating, we find in two passages of 
the Old Testament an account of the use of sharp stones or 
stone knives for circumcision; Exodus iv. 25, "And Zipporah 
took a stone" (*)¥, tzor), and Joshua v. 2, " At that time Je- 
hovah said to Joshua, Make thee knives of stone" (ITDI!! 
D^TJfj charvoth tzurim). As they stand, however, these pas- 
sages are not sufficient to prove the case, for there is much 
the same ambiguity as to the original meaning of tzor, tzur, as 
in the etymologies of some of the words just mentioned. Ge- 
senius refers them to Ti¥ tzur, to cut, and the readings " an 
edge, a knife," and n knives of edges, i.e. sharp knives," have 
so far at least an equal claim. It remains to be seen which 
view is supported by further evidence. 

In the first place, the Septuagint altogether favours the 
opinion that the knives in question were of stone, by reading 
in the first place yferjcjiov, a stone, or pebble, and in the second, 
fia^aipa^ Trerplva? iic 7T€rpa<; aKporo/JLov, stone knives of sharp- 
cut stone. These are mentioned again in the remarkable pas- 
sage which follows the account of the death and burial of 
Joshua (Joshua xxiv. 29-30), "And it came to pass after these 
things, that Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of Jehovah, 
died, being a hundred and ten years old, and they buried him 
in the border of his^ inheritance in Timnath Serah, which is in 
Mount Ephraim,. on the north side of the hill of Gaash." Here 
follows in the LXX. a passage not in the Hebrew text which 
has come down to us. " Kal e'/cet eOrjKav fier avrov et? to 
fjLVTjfAeiov iv ft) edaifrav avrov ixel, Ta? ^la^aipa^ Ta? TrerpLvas, 
iv at? irepierejxe rov<$ utou? 'Io-parjX iv TaXydXois, ore itjrjyayev 
avrov? e'f Alyvrrrov Ka6a avvera^e Kvpw Kal ifcei elalv eft)? 
t?5? o-q^iepov 97/xepa?." 2 u And there they laid with him in the 

1 In this connexion see the meanings of agman in Boehtlingk & Koth, and 
Benfey, G. W. L., part i. p. 156. 

2 LXX., Ed. Field, Oxford, 1859. Elsewhere Gilead instead of Gaash, and 
other differences. 


tomb wherein they buried him there, the stone knives, wherewith 
he circumcised the children of Israel at the Gilgals, when he 
led them out of Egypt, as the Lord commanded. And they are 
there unto this day/' Any one who is disposed to see in this 
statement a late interpolation, may imagine an origin for it. 
The opening of a tumulus containing, as they so commonly do, 
a quantity of sharp instruments of stone, might suggest to a 
Jew who only knew such things as circumcising knives, the 
idea that he saw before him the tomb of Joshua, and, buried 
with his body, the stone knives wherewith he circumcised the 
children of Israel. 

How far the modern Jews follow the translation " stone," 
" knives of stone," I cannot entirely say, but two modern 
Jewish translations of the Pentateuch which I have consulted 
read " stone" in Exodus iv. 25. It is to be remarked that the 
Rabbinical law admits such a use; it stands thus: — 

, rmnn mi bnm ntrooi -ran iVwi , \hn bnn " 

Nan nafcfc crona Dfwipta vh np bv rwnpno yin 
p pon p bran biob "tenon jo proton , tod^ +rh 

" pon Viob trai onsom 

" We may circumcise with anything, even with a flint, with 
crystal (glass) or with anything that cuts, except with the 
sharp edge of a reed, because enchanters make use of that, or 
it may bring on a disease, and it is a precept of the wise men to 
circumcise with iron, whether in the form of a knife or of scis- 
sors, but it is customary to use a knife." Now as Professor 
Lazarus, a most competent judge in such matters, remarked 
to me with reference to this question, the mere mention of a 
practice in the Rabbinical books is not good evidence that it 
ever really existed, seeing that their writers habitually exercise 
their fertile imaginations in devising cases which might pos- 
sibly occur, and then argue upon them as seriously as though 
they were real matters of practical importance. But there 
are observed facts, which tend to bring these particular ordi- 
nances out of the region of fancy, and into that of fact. , As 
to the prohibition of the use of the reed knife, it is to be no- 


ticed that this (in the form of a sharp splinter of bamboo) was 
the regular instrument with which circumcision was performed 
in the Fiji islands. 1 And as to the use of the stone circum- 
cising knife, it is stated by Leutholf, who is looked upon as a 
good authority, that it was in use in ^Ethiopia in his time, — 
" The Alnajah, an ^Ethiopian race, perform circumcision with 
stone knives." " Alnajah gens iEthiopum cultris lapideis cir- 
cumcisionem peragit." 2 This would be in the sixteenth cen- 
tury. And though the modern Jews generally use a steel 
knife, there appears to be a remarkable exception to this cus- 
tom ; that when a male child dies before the eighth day, it is 
nevertheless circumcised before burial,, but this is done, not 
with the ordinary instrument, but with a fragment of flint or 
glass. 3 

Under the reservation just stated, a recognition among the 
Jewish ordinances of the practice of slaughtering a beast with 
a [sharp] stone, may here be cited from the Mishna : — 

4 mtpa intomy , rcpcn r TO3j t bsai tssmwi 

" If a person has slaughtered [a beast] with a hand-sickle, a 
[sharp] stone, or a reed, it is casker," i.e. clean, or fit to be 
eaten. Here not only the context, but the necessity of shed- 
ding the animal's blood, proves that a proper cutting instrument 
of stone, or at least a sharp-edged piece, is meant. 

Before drawing any inference from these pieces of evidence, 
it will be well to bring together other accounts of the use of 
cutting instruments of stone, glass, etc., by people who, though 
in possession of iron knives, for some reason or other did not 
choose to apply them to certain purposes. Thus the practice 
of sacrificing a beast, not with a knife or an axe, but with a 
sharp stone, has been observed on the West Coast of Africa 
during the last century, as will be more fully detailed in page 

1 Mariner, vol. i. p. 329; vol. iL p. 252; Yocab. s.vv. " carno," "tefe." 
Williams, ■ Fiji,' vol. i. p. 166. 

2 Ludolfi * Historia ^Ethiopica ;' Frankfort-on-Maine, 1581, iii. 1. 21. 

3 My authority for this statement is Mr. Philip Abraham, Secretary of the 
Reformed Synagogue in Margaret Street, Cavendish Square. 

4 Mishna, Treatise Cholin, eh. i. 2. 


An often quoted instance of the use of a stone knife for a 
ceremonial purpose, where iron would have been much more 
convenient, is the passage in Herodotus which relates that, in 
Egypt, the mummy-erubalmers made the incision in the side of 
the corpse with a sharp iEthiopic stone. 1 The account given 
by Diodorus Siculus is fuller : — (C And first, the body being laid 
on the ground, he who is called the scribe marks on its left side 
how far the incision is to be made. Then the so-called slitter 
(paraschistes), having an iEthiopic stone, and cutting the flesh 
as far as the law allows, instantly runs off, the bystanders pur- 
suing him and pelting him with stones, cursing him, and as it 
were, turning the horror of the deed upon him," for he who 
hurts a citizen is held worthy of abhorrence. 2 There are two 
kinds of stone knives found in excavations and tombs in Egypt, 
both of chipped flint, and very neatly made ; one kind is like 
a very small cleaver, the other has more of the character of a 
lancet, and would seem the more suitable of the two for the 
embalmer's purpose. 

A story related by Pliny, of the way in which the balsam of 
Judea, or "balm of Gilead," was extracted, comes under the 
same category. The incisions, he says, had to be made in the 
tree with knives of glass, stone, or bone, for it hurts it to 
wound its vital parts with iron, and it dies forthwith. 3 

With regard to the reason of such practices as these, it has 
been suggested that there was a practical advantage in the use 
of the stone knife for circumcision, as less liable to cause in- 
flammation than a knife of bronze or iron. From this point of 
view Pliny's statement has been quoted, that the mutilation of 
the priests of Cybele was done with a sherd of Samian ware 
(Samia testa), as thus avoiding danger. 4 But as regards iron, 
at least, the ordinary Jewish practice shows that there is not 
much in this, while a dead body is not liable to inflammation, 
and yet the ancient Egyptians used, and the modern Jews use, 
the stone knife in operating upon it. I heard the reason 
assigned, in the latter case, that it is undesirable to use on the 
living subject an instrument which has been applied to such a 

1 Herod., ii. 86. 2 Diod. Sic, i. 91. 3 Plin., xii. 54. 

4 Plin., xxxv. 46. xi. 109. 


purpose ; but if this were all, it would be far less troublesome 
to have a second knife than to use so miserable a substitute ; 
and the argument does not touch the Egyptian case of the 
embalm ers. I cannot but think that most, if not all, of the 
series are to be explained as being, to use the word in no 
harsh sense, but according to what seems its proper ety- 
mology, cases of superstition, of the ' ' standing over " of old 
habits into the midst of a new and changed state of things, of 
the retention of ancient practices for ceremonial purposes, long 
after they had been superseded for the commonplace uses of 
ordinary life. Such a view takes in every instance which has 
been mentioned, though the reason of iron not being adopted 
by the modern Jews in one case as well as in another is not 
clear. As to Pliny's story of the balm of Gilead, I am told, 
on competent authority, that the use of stone and such things 
instead of iron for making incisions in the tree, if ever it 
really existed, could be nothing but a superstition without any 
foundation in reason. It may perhaps tell in favour of the story 
being true, that it is only one of a number of cases mentioned 
by Pliny, of plants as to which the similar notion prevailed, 
that they would be spoiled by being touched with an iron in- 
strument. 1 There seems, on the whole, to be a fair case for be- 
lieving that among the Israelites, as in Ethiopia and Egypt, a 
a ceremonial use of stone instruments long survived the ge- 
neral adoption of metal, and that such observances are to be 
interpreted as relics of an earlier Stone Age ; while incidentally 
the same argument makes it probable that the rite of circum- 
cision belonged to the Stone Age among the ancient Israelites, 
as we know it does among the modern Australians. 2 

With regard to the foregoing accounts, there is a point which 
requires further remark. Glass has been mentioned by the 
side of stone, as a material for making sharp instruments of; 
and it may seem at first sight an unreasonable thing to make 
the use of a production which belongs to so advanced a state 
of civilization as glass, evidence of a Stone Age. But savages 
have so unanimously settled it, that glass is a kind of stone 

1 Plin., xix. 57, xxiii. 81, xxiv. 6, 62. 

2 Or. F. Augas, ■ South Australia Illustrated ; ' London, 1847, pi. v. 


peculiarly suitable for such purposes, that where a knife of 
glass, or a weapon armed with it, is found, it may be confi- 
dently set down as the immediate successor of a stone one. 
The Fuegians and the Andaman Islanders are found to have 
used in this manner the bits of broken glass that came in their 
way ; the New Zealanders have been observed to take a piece 
of glass in place of the sharp stone with which they cut their 
bodies in mourning for the dead ; and the North American 
Indians to fix one in a wooden handle, in place of the sharp 
stone with which the native phleme used to be armed. 1 The 
Australians substituted such pieces, when they could get them, 
for the angular pieces of stone with which their lances and 
jagged knives were mounted. Mr. Christy has some interesting 
specimens of these Australian instruments, which date them- 
selves in a curious way as belonging to the time of contact 
with Europeans. They were originally set with stone teeth ; 
but where these have been knocked out, their places have been 
filled by new ones of broken glass. 

To complete the survey of the Stone Age and its traces in 
the world, Africa has now to be more fully examined. This 
great continent is now entirely in the Iron Age. The tribes 
who do not smelt their own iron, as the Bushmen, get their sup- 
plies from others; and in the immense central and western 
tracts above the Equator, there appears to be no record of 
tribes living without it. In South Africa, however, the case 
is different ; and the accounts of the English voyages round 
the Cape of Good Hope about the beginning of the seventeenth 
century, collected in Purchases f Pilgrim es/ give quite a clear 
history of the transition from the Stone to the Iron Age, which 
was then taking place. 

Then as now, the inhabitants of Madagascar had their iron 
knives and spear-heads; and they would have silver in pay- 
ment for their cattle, Is. for a sheep, and 3s. 6d. for a cow. 
But on the West African coast, north of the Cape, there were 
pastoral tribes, probably Hottentots, who evidently did not 
know then, as they do now, how to work the abundant iron 

1 Fitz Koy, Voy. of H.M.S. Adventure and Beagle; London, 1839, vol. ii. 
p. 184. Mouat, p. 305. Yate, p. 243. Loskiel, p. 144. 


ore of their country. At Saldanha Bay, in 1598, John Davis 
could get fat-tailed sheep and bullocks for bits of old iron and 
nails, and in 1604 a great bullock was still to be bought for a 
piece of an old iron hoop. But only seven years later, Nicho- 
las Dounton, " Captaine of the Pepper- Corne," begins to write 
ruefully of the change in this delightful state of things. " Sal- 
dania having in former time been comfortable to all our nation 
travelling this way, both outwards and homewards, yeelding 
them abundance of flesh, as sheepe and beeves brought downe 
by the saluage inhabitants, and sold for trifles, as a beife for a 
piece of an iron hoope of foureteene inches long, and a sheepe 
for a lesser piece ;" but now this is at an end, spoilt perhaps 
by the Dutchmen, " who use to spoyle all places where they 
come (onely respecting their owne present occasions) by their 
ouer much liberalitie," etc. etc. 1 

Specimens of stone implements from South Africa have been 
brought to Europe. A double-flat stone adze mounted in a 
very peculiar way in a withe handle, brought from Little Fish 
Bay, about 15° S. Lat., has been described and figured, 2 and 
Mr. Christy has an ordinary small spear- or large arrow-head 
found among the Hottentots, and ticketed " poisoned," and a 
lance-head from Fish River. Lastly, a native Damara story 
clearly preserves a recollection of the time, possibly several 
generations ago, when stone axes were used to cut down trees. 
The tale is a sort of " House that Jack built," in which a little 
girl's mother gives her a. needle, and she goes and finds her 
father sewing thongs with thorns, so she gives him the needle 
and he breaks it and gives her an axe. " Going farther on 
she met the lads who were in charge of the cattle. They were 
busy taking out honey, and in order to get at it they were 
obliged to cut down the trees with stones." She addressed 
them : — " Our sons, how is it that you use stones in order to 
get at the honey ? Why do you not say, Our first-born, give 
us the axe V and so on. 3 

1 Purchas, vol. i. pp. 118, 133, 275, 417. 

2 G-. V. du Noyer, in ' Archaeological Journal,' 1847. A drawing in Klenim, 
C. W., part ii. p. 71, would seem to be from this, or one almost absolutely like it. 

3 Bleek, ' Reynard in Africa,' p. 90. 


Going back two thousand years or so, record is to be found 
at least of a partial Stone Age condition in North-Eastern 
Africa. It appears from Herodotus that the African Ethiopians 
in the army of Xerxes not only headed their arrows with sharp 
stone, but had spears armed with sharpened horns of antelopes, 
while the Libyans had wooden javelins hardened at the point 
by fire. 1 Strabo mentions in Ethiopia a tribe who pointed 
their reed arrows in this way, and another who used as weapons 
the horns of antelopes. 2 It is interesting to observe that in 
South Africa the spear headed in this way has survived up to 
our own time ; Mr. Andersson saw the natives at Walfisch Bay 
spearing the fish left at low water, with a gemsbock's horn at- 
tached to a slender stick. 8 

Traces of a Stone Age in Egypt, in the use of the stone 
arrow-head, and of the stone knife for ceremonial purposes, 
have been already spoken of. No account of the finding of 
stone implements in North Africa seems to have been pub- 
lished, but Mr. Christy, in a journey made in Algeria in 1863, 
found them there, as elsewhere. 4 He met with flint flake- 
knives, arrow-heads, and polished celts, at Constantine ; flakes, 
arrow-heads, and a beautifully chipped lance-head of quartz- 
ite, at Dellys on the coast; and flakes and a large pick- 
shaped instrument, from the desert south-east of Oran, on the 
confines of Morocco. At Bou-Merzoug, on the plateau of the 
Atlas, south of Constantine, he found, in a bare, deserted, 
stony place among the mountains, a collection of tombs, 1000 
or 1500 in number, made of the rude limestone slabs, set up 
with one slab to form a roof, so as to make, not mere crom- 
lechs, but closed chambers where the bodies were packed in. 
Tradition says that a wicked people lived there, and for their 
sins stones were rained upon them from heaven, so they built 
these chambers to creep into. Near this remarkable necro- 
polis, Mr. Christy found flint-flakes and arrow-heads. 

i Herod., vii. 69, 71. 2 Strabo, xvi. 4, 9, 11. 3 Andersson, p. 15. 

4 A paper by Mr. Christy, embodying some account of his discoveries in the 
reindeer caves of Central France, and mentioning his finding stone implements 
in North Africa, and the distribution of such in different parts of the world, was 
read before the Ethnological Society in June, 1864. 


If we go westward as far as the Canary Islands, we find a 
race, considered to be of African origin, living in the fourteenth 
century under purely Stone Age conditions, making hatchets, 
knives, lancets, and spear-heads of obsidian, and axes of green 
jasper, and pointing their spears and digging-sticks with horns. 1 
It is possible that they might have once had the use of iron, 
and have lost it on removing to the islands, where there is no 
ore, but no evidence of this having been the case seems to 
have been found. 

In Western Africa, when the god Gimawong came down to 
his temple at Labode on the Gold Coast once a year, with a 
sound like a flight of wild geese in spring, his worshippers 
sacrificed an ox to him, killing it not with a knife, but with 
a sharp stone. 2 Klemm looks upon this as a sign of the high 
antiquity of the ceremony, and, taking into consideration the 
evidence as to the keeping up of the use of stone for ceremo- 
nial purposes into the Iron Age, the inference seems a highly 
probable one, although there is another side to this argument. 
In order to bring this into view, and to adduce some other facts 
bearing on evidence of the Stone Age, it will be necessary to 
say here something more of the Myth of the Thunderbolt. 

For ages it has been commonly thought that, with the flash 
of lightning, there falls, sometimes at least, a solid body which 
is * known as the thunder-bolt, thunder- stone, etc., as in the 
dirge in ' Cymbeline/ — 

" Fear no more the lightning-flash, 
Nor the all-dreaded thunder-stone." 

The actual falling of meteoric stones may have had to do with 
the growth of this theory, but whatever its origin, it is one of 
the most widely spread beliefs in the world. The thing con- 
sidered to be the thunderbolt is not always defined in accounts 
given. It is described as a stone, 3 or it may be a bit of iron- 

1 Barker-Webb & Berthelot, * Histoire Naturelle des lies Canaries ;' Paris, 
1842, etc., vol. i. part i. pp. 62, 107, 138. Bory de St. Vincent, ■ Essai sur les 
Isles Fortunees ;' Paris, An XI. (1803-4), pp. 58, 75-6, 156. 

2 Eomer, p. 54. Klemm, C. G-., vol. iii. p. 378. 

3 Bosman, 'Beschryving van de Guinese Goud-Kust,' etc.; Utrecht, 1704, 
p. 109. 


ore, or perhaps iron, 1 or a belemnite, /3e\£/WT77?, so called from 
fieXefJuvov, a dart, apparently with the idea of its being a thun- 
der-bolt ; for this spear-like fossil is still called in England a 
u thunder- stone." Dr. Falconer mentions the name of " light- 
ning-bones" or " thunder-bones," given to fossil bones brought 
down as charms from the plateau of Chanthan in the Hima- 
layas, 2 where, of course, frequent thunderstorms are seen to 
account for their presence. But it is also believed that the 
stone celts and hammers found buried in the ground are thun- 
derbolts. The country folks of the west of England still hold 
that the ' ( thunder-axes" they find, once fell from the sky. In 
Brittany, the itinerant umbrella-mender of Carnac inquires on 
his rounds for pierres de tonnerre, and takes them in payment 
for repairs ; and these are fair examples of what may be found 
in other countries in Europe, and not in those inhabited by our 
Aryan race alone, for the Finns have the same belief. 3 The 
remarkable Chinese account of the thunder-stones has been 
already quoted, and it has been noticed that stone celts are 
held to be thunderbolts in Japan and the Eastern Archipelago. 
Even in a country where the use of stone axes by the Indians 
is matter of modern history, and in some places actually sur- 
vives to this day, the Brazilians use, for such a stone axe- 
blade, their Portuguese word corisco, 41 that is, "lightning," 
" thunderbolt" (Latin coruscare) . 

As the stone axes and hammers are but one of several 
classes of objects thought to be thunderbolts, it is probable 
that the Myth took them to itself at a time when their real use 
and nature had been forgotten, and the reason of their being 
found buried underground was of course unknown. This view 
is supported by the fact of the existence of such instruments 
being also accounted for by taking them up into mythology in 
other ways. Thus in Japan the stone arrow-heads are rained 
from heaven, or dropped by the flying spirits who shoot them, 
while in Europe they are fairy weapons, albschosse, elf-bolts, 

1 Speke, Journal of Disc. ; Edin. and London, 1863, p. 223. 
Proc. R. Geog. Soc, Feb. 25, 1864, p. 41. 

Klemm, C. W., part ii. p. 65 ; and see Castren, ' Finnische Mythologie,' p. 42. 
Pr. Max. y. Wied, { Reise nach Brasilien ;' Frankfort, 1820-1, vol. ii. p. 35. 


shot by fairies or magicians, and in the North of Ireland the 
wizards still draw them out from the bodies of " overlooked" 
cattle. 1 Dr. Daniel Wilson mentions an interesting post- 
Christian myth, which prevailed in Scotland till the close of 
the last century, that the stone hammers found buried in the 
ground were Purgatory Hammers for the dead to knock with 
at the gates. 2 

The inability of the world to understand the nature of the 
stone implements found buried in the ground, is not more con- 
spicuously shown in the myths of thunderbolts, elfin arrows, 
and purgatory hammers, than in the sham science that has 
been brought to bear upon them in Europe, as well as in China. 
It is instructive to see Adrianus Tollius, in his 1649 edition of 
' Boethius on Gems/ struggling against the philosophers. He 
gives drawings of some ordinary stone axes and hammers, and 
tells how the naturalists say that they are generated in the sky 
by a fulgureous exhalation conglobed in a cloud by the circum- 
fixed humour, and are as it were baked hard by intense heat, 
and the weapon becomes pointed by the damp mixed with it 
flying from the dry part, and leaving the other end denser, but 
the exhalations press it so hard that it breaks out through the 
cloud, and makes thunder and lightning. But, he says, if this 
be really the way in which they are generated, it is odd that 
they are not round, and that they have holes through them, 
and those holes not equal through, but widest at the ends. 
It is hardly to be believed, he thinks. 3 Speculation on the 
natural origin of high-class stone weapons and tools has now 
long since died out in Europe, but some faint echoes of the 
Chinese emperor's philosophy were heard among us but lately, 
in the arguments on the natural formation of the flint imple- 
ments in the Drift. 

With regard, then, to the use of thunderbolts as furnishing 
evidence of an early Stone Age, it may be laid down that such 
a myth, when we can be sure that it refers to artificial stone 

1 Wilde, Cat. R. I. A., p. 19. 

2 "Wilson, Archaeology, etc., of Scotland ; Edinburgh, 1851, pp. 124, 134, etc. 

3 Boethius, ' Gemmarum & Lapidum Historia,' recensuit etc. Adrianus Tollius ; 
Leyden, 1649, p. 482. 


implements, proves that such things were found by a people 
who, being possessed of metal, had forgotten the nature and 
use of these rude instruments of earlier times. Kang-hi's re- 
marks that some of the so-called " lightning-stones M were 
like hatchets, knives, and mallets, and Pliny's mention of some 
of the ceraunice or thunder-stones being like axes, 1 are cases 
in point. But the mere mention of the belief in thunderbolts 
falling, as for example in Madagascar 2 and Arracan, 3 only gives 
a case for further inquiry on the suspicion that the thunder- 
bolts in these regions may turn out to be stone implements, as 
they have so often done elsewhere. 

The thunderbolt is thought to have a magical power, and 
there is especially one notion, in connexion with which it comes 
into use. This is that it preserves the place where it is kept 
from lightning, the idea being apparently here, as in the belief 
about the " wildfire M which will be presently mentioned, that 
where the lightning has struck, it will not strike again, so that 
the place where a thunderbolt is put is made safe by having 
been already struck once, though harmlessly. In Germany, the 
house in which it is kept is safe from the storm ; when a tempest 
is approaching, it begins to sweat, and again it is said of it, that 
" he who chastely beareth this, shall not be struck by light- 
ning, nor the house or town where that stone is," 4 while nearly 
the same idea comes out in Pliny's account of the brontia } which 
is " like the heads of tortoises, and falling, as' they think, with 
thunder, puts out, if you will believe it, what has been struck 
by lightning." 5 These notions suggest an interpretation of the 
curious account given by Sir James Emerson Tennent of the 
wajira-chumbatan, placed on the top of Singhalese dagobas or 
shrines, to protect them from lightning. 6 As wajira is Sanskrit 
vajra, the thunderbolt, the virtue of the device may have lain, 
as in the preceding cases, in some object supposed to be the 
thunderbolt, or at least to represent it, as a stone celt, a dia- 
mond, or some other precious stone. 

In the mythology of our race, the bolt of the Thunder-god 

1 Plin. xxxvii. 51. 2 Ellis, ■ Madagascar,' vol. i. pp. 30, 398. 

3 Coleman, Myth, of Hindoos, p. 327. 4 Grimm, D. M., pp. 164, 1170. 

6 Plin., xxxvii. 55. Tennent, ■ Ceylon,' vol. i. p. 508. 



holds a prominent place. To kirn, be he Indra or Zens the 
Heaven-god, or the very thunder itself in person, Thnnor or 
Thor, the Aryans give as an attribute the bolt which he hurls 
with lightning from the clouds. Now it is clear that this was 
the meaning of the Koman Jupiter Lapis. The sacred flint 
was kept in the temple of Jupiter Feretrius, and brought out to 
be sworn by, and with it the pater patratus smote the victim 
slain to consecrate the solemn treaties of the Roman people. 
' ' ' If by public counsel/ he said, ' or by wicked fraud, they 
swerve first, in that day, Jove, smite thou the Roman peo- 
ple, as I here to-day shall smite this hog ; and smite them so 
much more, as thou art abler and stronger/ And having said 
this, he struck the hog with a flint stone." 1 

To those who read this, it is evident that the flint of Jupiter 
was held either to be a thunderbolt or to represent one, and 
the practice cannot be taken as having of necessity come down 
from an early Stone Age, seeing that it might quite as well 
have sprung up among a race possessed of metals. The sacred 
instrument is commonly spoken of indefinitely, as la/pis silex, 
saxum silex, but it may have been a flint implement found 
buried in the ground, for already in the ancient song of the 
f Arval Brethren/ the thunderbolt is spoken of as a celt (cu* 
neus) " quom tibei cunei decstumum tonarunt/' 2 and, as has 
been shown, at least this development of the myth of the thun- 
derbolt belongs tO an age when the nature of the buried stone 
implement has been forgotten. Yet if all we knew about the 
matter was that victims were sacrificed -with a flint on certain 
occasions, and that the Fetiales carried these flints with them 
into foreign countries where a treaty was to be solemnized, it 
might be quite plausibly argued that we had here before us a 
practice which had come down, unchanged, from the time when 
the fathers of the Roman race used stone implements for the 
ordinary purposes of life. This is the other side of the ar- 
gument, which must not be kept out of sight in interpreting, 
as a relic of the Stone Age, the West African ceremony of 

1 Liy., I 24 j xxx. 43. Grimm, D. M., p. 1171. 

2 Kuhn, « Herabkunft des Feuers,' p. 226. 


slaughtering the beast on the yearly sacrifice to Gimawong, 
not with a knife, but with a sharp stone. 1 

The examination of the evidence bearing on the Stone Age 
thus brings into view two leading facts. In the first place, 
within the limits of the Stone Age itself, an unmistakable 
upward development in the course of ages is to be discerned, 
in the traces of an early period when stone implements were 
only used in their rude chipped state, and were never ground 
or polished, followed by a later period when grinding came to 
be applied to improve such stone instruments as required it. 
And in the second place, a body of evidence from every great 
district of the habitable globe uniformly tends to prove, that 
where man is found using metal for his tools and weapons, 
either his ancestors or the former occupants of the soil, if there 
were any, once made shift with stone. It would be well to 
have the evidence fuller from some parts of the worlfl, as from 
Southern Asia and Central Africa, but we need not expect 
from thence anything but confirmation of what is already 

1 A passage iu Klemm, C. G., vol. iv. p. 91, relating to a Circassian practice of 
sacrificing with a "thunderbolt," arises from a misunderstanding. See J. S. Bell, 
' Circassian vol. ii. pp. 96, 108. 

Q 2 




There are a number of stories, old and new, of tribes of man- 
kind living in ignorance of the art of fire-making. Such a 
state of things is indeed usually presupposed by the wide- 
spread legends of first fire-makers or fire-bringers, and Plu- 
tarch, in his essay on the question " Whether water or fire is 
the more useful ?", gives a typical view of the matter. Fire 
was invented, as they say, by Prometheus, and our life shows 
that this was not a poetic fiction. For there are some races of 
men who live without fire, houseless, hearthless, and dwelling 
in the open air. 1 The modern point of view is, however, very 
different from Plutarch's, and when the mention of a fireless 
race appears in company with a Prometheus, mythology, not 
history, claims it. The mere assertion that in a certain place a 
race is, or was, to be found living without fire is more difficult 
to deal with. In examining a collection of such statements, it 
is well to pay particular attention to the modern ones, on which 
collateral evidence may be brought to bear. 

What is known of the native civilization of the Canary 
Islands, the making of pottery, the cooking in underground 
ovens, the use of the fire-drill, leaves no doubt that the Guanches 
knew how to produce and use fire at the time of the European 
expeditions in the 14th and 15th centuries. Yet Antonio Gal- 
vano, writing his treatise about the middle of the sixteenth cen- 

1 Plut., ' Aqua an Ignis utilior ?' 


tury, declares that ' ' in times past they ate raw meat, for want 
of fire." Farther on in the same book he has another story of 
a fireless people. In 1529, Alvaro de Saavedra, returning from 
the Moluccas toward the Pacific coast of Mexico, sailed east- 
ward along the north coast of New Guinea, and having gone 
four or five degrees south of the Line, crossed again to the 
north, and discovered an island of tattooed people, which he 
called Isla de los Pintados, or the isle of painted men. Beyond 
this island, in 10° or 12° N., they found many small smooth 
ones together, full of palms and grass, and these they called 
Los Jardines, " The Gardens." The natives had no domestic 
animals, they were dressed in a white cloth of grass, ate cocoa- 
nuts for bread, and raw fish, which they took in the praus which 
they made out of drift pine-wood with their tools of shell. 
They stood in terror of fire, for they had never seen it (espan- 
taram se do fogo, porque nunca o viram). 1 I am not aware 
that these islands have been identified, but they would seem to 
be somewhere about the Kadak or Chatham group. The ac- 
count of the natives, to judge by its general consistency with 
what is known of the common eating of raw vegetables and 
fish in other coral islands in the Pacific, seems to have come 
mostly or altogether from an eye-witness, and the statement 
that they had no fire is not to be summarily set down as a mere 
fiction, like that about the Canary Islands. It has fortunately 
happened, however, that a very similar story has come up 
in our own time about another coral island, under circum- 
stances which allow of its accuracy being tested. When the 
United States' Exploring Expedition, under Commodore Wilkes, 
visited Fakaafo or Bowditch Island in 1841, they made the 
following remarks : — " There was no sign of places for cook- 
ing, nor any appearance of fire, and it is believed that all their 
provisions are eaten raw. What strengthened this opinion, 
was the alarm the natives felt when they saw the sparks ema- 
nating from the flint and steel, and the emission of smoke from 
the mouths of those who were smoking cigars." 2 

1 Galvano, 'Discoveries of the World;' Hakluyt Soc., London, 1862, pp. 66, 
174-9, 238. 

2 Wilkes, Narr. of U. S. Exploring Exp., 1838-42 ; London, 1845, vol. v. p. 18. 


Curiously enough, within the very work which contains these 
remarks, particulars are given which show that fire was in 
reality a familiar thing in the island. Mr. Hale, the ethno- 
grapher to the expedition, not only mentions the appearance of 
smoke on the neighbouring Duke of York's Island as being 
evidence of natives being there, but he gives the name for fire 
in the language of Fakaafo, afi, 1 a most widely-spread Malayo- 
Polynesian word, corresponding to the Malay form wpi. Some 
years later, the Kev. George Turner -again mentions this word 
afi, and gives besides a native story about fire, which is an in- 
teresting example of the way in which a mere myth may never- 
theless be a piece of historical evidence. The account which 
the inhabitants of Fakaafo give of the introduction of fire 
among themselves is thus related. " The origin of fire they 
trace to Mafuike, but, unlike the Mafuike of the mythology of 
some other islands, this was an old blind lady. Talangi went 
down to her in her lower regions, "and asked her to give him 
some of her fire. She obstinately refused until he threatened 
to kill her, and then she yielded. With the fire he made her 
say what fish were to be cooked with it, and what were still to 
be eaten raw, and then began the time of cooking food." 
Utter myth as this story is, it yet joins with the evidence of 
language in bringing the history of the islanders who tell it 
into connexion with the history of the distant New Zealanders. 
It belongs to the great Polynesian myth of Maui, who, the New 
Zealand story says, went away to the dwelling of his great an- 
cestress Mahuika, and got fire from her. 2 And it proves that, 
even in the past time when these two versions of the story 
branched off, one to be found in Fakaafo, and the other in New 
Zealand, the origin of fire must have been already a thing of 
the forgotten past, or a myth would not have been applied to 
explain it. 

In his account of the natives of Fakaafo, Mr. Turner speaks 
of their recollection of the time when they used fire in felling 
trees, and he mentions, moreover, some curious native ordi- 

1 Hale, Ethnography, etc., of IT. S. Exp. ; Philadelphia ed. vol. vi. 1846, 
pp. 149, 363. 

2 Sir G. Grey, ' Polynesian Mythology ;' London, 1855, pp. 45-9. 


nances respecting fire. " No fire is allowed to be kindled at 
night in the houses of the people all the year round. It is sa- 
cred to the god, and so, after sundown, they sit and chat in the 
dark. There are only two exceptions to the rule : first, fire to 
cook fish caught in the night, but then it must not be taken to 
their houses, only to the cooking-house ; and second, a light is 
allowed at night in a house where there happens to be a con- 
finement." 1 It is likely that the American explorers may have 
misinterpreted the surprise of the natives at seeing cigars 
smoked, and fire produced from the flint and steel, as well as 
the eating of raw fish and the absence of signs of cooking in 
the dwellings. If the similar story of the islanders of Los 
Jardines really came from an eye-witness, it may have arisen in 
much the same way. In Kotzebue's time, the people of the 
Radack group (which may be perhaps the very Jardines in 
question) were just as much astonished at the smith's forge, 
though fire was a well-known thing to them. 2 

The circumstances of Magalhaens* discovery of the Ladrones 
or Marian Islands, and the Philippines, in 1521, are known to 
us from the narrative of his companion Antonio Pigafetta, who 
describes the manners and customs of the natives, but without 
a hint that fire was anything strange to them. This preposte- 
rous addition must be sought in later authors. In 1652, Horn, 
not content with quoting Galvano's stories of the Canaries and 
Los Jardines, adds the natives of the Philippines as a race 
destitute of fire. 3 But the story of the Ladrone Islanders is 
even more remarkable than this. 

The arts of these people are described by Pigafetta with 
some detail. He mentions the slight clothing of bark worn by 
the women, the mats and baskets, the wooden houses, the 
canoes with outriggers, and he notices that the natives had no 
weapons but lances pointed with fish bones, and had no notion of 
what arrows were. They stole everything they could lay hands 
on, and at last Magalhaens went on shore with forty men, burnt 

1 Turner, • Polynesia,' pp. 527-8, and Vocab. 

3 Otto t. Kotzebue, ' Entdeckungs-Eeise ;' Weimar, 1821, vol. ii. p. 67. 
3 Hornius, 'De Originibus Americanis ;' The Hague, 1652, pp. 204, 51. See 
Goguet, vol. i. p. 69. 


forty or fifty of their houses, and killed seven of the people. 
A hundred and eighty years afterwards the Jesuit Father Le 
Gobien brought out a new feature in the story. ' ' What is 
most astonishing, and what people will find it hard to believe, 
is that they had never seen fire. This so necessary element 
was entirely unknown to them, They neither knew its use nor 
its qualities ; and they were never more surprised than when 
they saw it for the first time on the descent that Magellan 
made on one of their islands, where he burnt some fifty of their 
houses, to punish these islanders for the trouble they had given 
him. They at first regarded the fire as a kind of animal which 
attached itself to the wood on which it fed. The first who 
came too near it having burnt themselves frightened the rest, 
and only dared look at it from afar ; for fear, they said, of be- 
ing bitten by it, and lest this terrible animal should wound 
them by its violent breath," etc. etc. He goes on to tell how 
they soon got accustomed to it and learnt to use it. 1 

It is a curious illustration of the change in historical criticism 
that has come since 1700, that the Jesuit historian should have 
expected so singular a story, not mentioned by the eye-witness 
who described the discovery, to be received without the pro- 
duction of the slightest evidence, a hundred and eighty years 
after date, and that the public should have justified his confi- 
dence in their credulity by believing and quoting his account. 
Whether he took it directly from any other book or not I can- 
not tell; but it is to be observed, that if we add Galvano's 
story about Los Jardines to Pigafetta's mention of Magalhaens 
burning the houses of the Ladrone Islanders, we may account 
for the appearance of all Father Le Gobien's story, except the 
idea of the fire being an animal, which may be supplied out of 
Herodotus. "By the Egyptians also it hath been held that 
fire is a living beast, and that it devours everything it can seize, 
and when filled with food it perishes with what it has de- 
voured/'' 2 

There are stories of fireless men in America, to which I can 
only refer. Father Lafitau speaks indefinitely of there being 

1 Le G-obien, 'Histoire des Isles Marianes;' Paris, 1700, p. 44. 

2 Herod., iii. 16. 


such. 1 Father Lombard, of the Company of Jesus, writing in 
1730 from Kourou, in French Guyana, gives an account of the 
tribe of Amikouanes on the river Oyapok, who are also called 
u long-eared Indians," their ears being stretched to their 
shoulders. This nation, he says, which has been hitherto un- 
known, is extremely savage ; they have no knowledge of fire. 2 
It is a very curious thing that one of the oldest stories of a 
race of fireless men is also the newest. In Ethiopia, says the 
geographer Pomponius Mela, " there are people to whom fire 
was so totally unknown before the coming of Eudoxus, and so 
wondrously were they pleased with it when they saw it, that 
they had the greatest delight in embracing the flames and 
hiding burning things in their bosoms till they were hurt." 3 
Pliny places these fireless men in his catalogue of monstrous 
Ethiopian tribes, between the dumb men and the pygmies. To 
some, he says, the use of fire was unknown before the time of 
Ptolemy Lathyrus, king of Egypt. 4 His mention of the name 
of Ptolemy Lathyrus shows that he, too, is quoting the voyages 
of Eudoxus of Cyzicus. Whether there was such a person as 
Eudoxus, and whether he really made the voyages attributed 
to him or not, is not very clear; but his story, like that of 
Sindbad, embodies notions current at the time it was written. 
And with such tenacity does the popular mind hold on to old 
stories, that now, after a lapse of some two thousand years, the 
fireless men and the pygmies are brought by the modern Ethio- 
pians into even closer contact than in the pages of Pliny. Dr. 
Krapf was told that the Dokos, men four feet high, living 
south of Kaffa and Susa, subsisted on roots and serpents, and 
were not acquainted with fire. 5 As far as the pygmies are 
concerned, there appears to be a foundation for the story, in 
a race of small men really living there. Krapf was shown a 
slave four feet high, who, they told him, was a Doko. But be- 
tween four feet and three spans, the height assigned by Pliny 
to pygmy races elsewhere, 6 there is a difference. Nor is this 

1 Lafitau, * Mceurs des Sauvages Ameriquains ;' Paris, 1724, vol. i. p. 40. 
3 ' Lettres fidifiantes et Curieuses ;' Paris, 1731, vol. xx. p. 223. Goguet, 1. c. 
3 Mela, iii. c. 9. 4 Plin., vi. 35, and see ii. 67. 

5 Krapf, Travels, etc., in East Africa ; London, 1860, p. 51, etc. See Perty, 
{ Grundziige der Etlmographie ;' Leipzig, 1859, p. 248. 6 Plin., vii. 2. 


the only instance of the wonderful permanence of old stories in 
this part of the world, quite irrespectively of their being true. 
Within no great distance, an old negro gave Mr. Petherick an 
account of the monstrous men he had met with in his travels, 
the men with four eyes, the men with eyes under their arrii- 
pits, the men with long tails, and the men whose ears were so 
big that they covered their bodies ; l so nearly has the modern 
African kept to the wonder-tales that were current in the time 
of Pliny. 2 

An unquestionable account of a tireless tribe would be of the 
highest interest to the ethnographer, proving, as it would do, 
a great step forward made by the races who can produce fire, 
for this is an art which, once learnt, could hardly be lost. But 
when we see that stories of such tribes have been set up again 
and again without any sound basis, while further information, 
when brought to bear on a series of such stories, tells against 
them so far as it goes, we are hardly warranted in trusting 
others of the same kind just because we have no means of test- 
ing them. A cause is required for the appearance of such 
stories in the world, but it does not follow that this cause must 
be the real existence of fireless tribes; a mere belief in their 
existence will answer the purpose, and this belief is known to 
have been* current for ages, especially coming out in the Pro- 
metheus-legends of various regions of the world. Experience 
shows how such an idea, when once fairly afloat, will assert it- 
self from time to time in stories furnished with place, date, and 
circumstance. It must be remembered, too, that the fireless 
men form only one of a number of races mentioned by writers, 
old and new, as being distinguished by the want of something 
which man usually possesses, who have no language, no names, 
no idea of spiritual beings, no dreams, no mouths, no heads, 
or no noses, but whose real existence more accurate knowledge 
has by no means tended to confirm. 

In connexion with the stories of fireless tribes, some accounts 

of a kind of transitional state may be mentioned here. Mr. 

Backhouse was told by a native of Van Diemen's Land, that 

his ancestors had no means of making fire before their ac- 

1 Petherick, p. 367. 2 Plin., vi. 35, vii. 2. 


quaintance with Europeans. They got it first from the sky, 
and preserved it by carrying firebrands about with them, and 
if these went out, they looked for the smoke of the fire of some 
other party, or for smouldering remains of a lately-abandoned 
fire of their own. 1 This curious account fits with the Tas- 
manian myth recorded by Mr. Milligan, which tells how fire 
was thrown down like a star by two black-fellows, who are 
now in the sky, the twin stars Castor and Pollux. 2 Moreover, 
Mr. Milligan himself, on the question being put to him, has 
answered it in a way very much corresponding to Mr. Back- 
house's account, to the effect that the Tasmanians never pro- 
duced fire by artificial means at all, but always carried it with 
them from one camping place to . another. Again, a statement 
of the same kind is reported to have been made by Mr. Mac 
Douall Stuart at the 1864 Meeting of the British Association, 
that fire was obtained by the natives of the southern part of 
Australia by the friction of two pieces of wood over a bunch 
of dry grass ; but that in the north this mode is unknown, fire- 
brands being constantly carried about and renewed, and if, by 
any accident, they become extinguished, a journey of great 
length has to be undertaken in order to obtain fire from other 
natives. 3 Now if it is hard to believe that the Tasmanians 
used fire, but knew of no means of producing it, it is ten times 
harder to imagine that among a population like that of Aus- 
tralia, so given to travelling and to intercourse among neigh- 
bouring tribes, and who, as we know, have had for generations 
one of the commonest contrivances for making fire, this con- 
trivance should not have reached districts in the north. It 
may be over-scepticism, but I think it will be safer to wait for 
more evidence before deciding positively that any known race 
of fire-users have not also been fire-makers, especially as the 
carrying about of burning brands, so as to be able to make a 
fire wherever they went at a moment's notice, was the habitual 
practice in parts of Australia where the natives were perfectly 
able to make new fire, if they chose, with their fire-drill. They 
simply found it more convenient to carry it about. 

1 Backhouse, ' Australia,' p. 99. 2 See Chapter XII. 

3 « Athenamm,' Oct. 15, 1864, p. 503. 



The accounts, then, of the finding of fireless tribes are of 
a highly doubtful character ; possibly true to some extent, but 
not probably so. Of the existence of others who are possessed 
of fire, but cannot produce it for themselves, there is more 
considerable evidence. But, on the other hand, both the pos- 
session of fire, and the art of making it, belong certainly to 
the vast majority of mankind, and have done so as far back as 
we can trace. The methods, however,- which have been found 
in use for making fire are very various. A survey of the con- 
dition of the art in different parts of the world, as known to us 
by direct evidence, is enough to make it probable that nearly 
all the different processes found in use are the successors of 
ruder ones; and, beside this, there is a mass of indirect evi- 
dence which fills up some of the shortcomings of history, as it 
does in the investigation of the Stone Age. Among some of 
the highest races of mankind, the lower methods of fire-making 
are still to be seen cropping out through the higher processes 
by which, for so many ages, they have been overlaid. The 
friction of two pieces of wood may perhaps be the original 
means of fire-making used by man ; but, between the rudest 
and the most artificial way in which this may be done, there is 
a considerable range of progress. 

One of the simplest machines for producing fire is that which 
may be called the u stick-and-groove." A blunt-pointed stick 

is run along a groove of its own 
making in a piece of wood lying 
on the ground, somewhat as 
shown in the imaginary drawing, 
Fig. 20. Mr. Darwin says that 
the very light wood of the Hibis- 
cus tiliaceus was alone used for the 
purpose in Tahiti. A native would 
produce fire with it in a few 
seconds ; he himself found it very 
hard work, but at length succeed- 
ed. This stick-and-groove process 
has been repeatedly described in the South Sea Islands, namely, 
in Tahiti, New Zealand, the Sandwich, Tonga, Samoa, and 

Fig. 20. 



Radack groups ; 1 but I have never found it distinctly mentioned 
out of this region of the world. Even should it be known 
elsewhere, its isolation in a particular district round which 
other processes prevail would still be an ethnographical fact 
of some importance. It is to be noticed also, that it comes 
much nearer than " fire -drilling" to the yet simpler process of 
striking fire with two pieces of split bamboo. The siliceous coat- 
ing of this cane makes it possible to strike fire with it ; and this 
is done in Eastern Asia, and also in the great Malay islands of 
Borneo and Sumatra, 2 at or near the source whence the higher 
Polynesian race is supposed to have spread over the Pacific 
Islands. But it would appear that the striking fire with bam- 
boo, simple as it seems, is for some reason not so convenient 
as the use of the more complex friction-apparatus ; for Marsden 
seems to consider the fire-drill as the regular native instrument 
in Sumatra, though he says he has also seen the same effect 
produced more simply by rubbing one bit of bamboo, with a 
sharp edge, across another. 

By a change in the way of work- 
ing, the u stick-and-groove u be- 
comes the " fire-drill." I have 
been obliged to coin both these 
terms, no suitable ones being 
forthcoming. The fire-drill, in 
its simplest form, is represented 
in Fig. 21 ; and Captain Cook's 
remarks on it and its use, among 
the native tribes of Australia, 
may serve also as a general de- 
scription of it all over the world, 
setting aside minor details. "They Fi g- 21 - 

produce fire with great facility, and spread it in a wonderful 

1 Darwin, in Narr., vol. iii. p. 488. Polack, vol. i. p. 165. Tyerman and Bennet, 
vol. i. p. 141. Buschmann, 'lies Marquises,' etc.; Berlin, 1843, pp. 140-1. 
Mariner, Vocab., s. vv. tolo-afi, tolonga, coionatoo. S. S. Farmer, 'Tonga,' etc.; 
London, 1855, p. 138. Walpole, Tour Years in the Pacific;' London, 1849, 
vol. ii. p. 377. Kotzebue, vol. iii. p. 154. 

2 Bowring, vol. i. p. 206. St. John, vol. i. p. 137. Marsden, p. 60. See 
Tennent, ' Ceylon,' vol. i. p. 105. 


manner. To produce it they take two pieces of dry soft wood ; 
one is a stick about eight or nine inches long, the other 
piece is flat : the stick they shape into an obtuse point at 
one end, and pressing it upon the other, turn it nimbly by 
holding it between both their hands, as we do a chocolate mill, 
often shifting their hands up, and then moving them down 
upon it, to increase the pressure as much as possible. By this 
method they get fire in less than two minutes, and from the 
smallest spark they increase it with great speed and dex- 
terity .' n It appears usual both in Australia and elsewhere to 
lay the lower piece on the ground, holding it firm with feet or 
knees. A good deal may depend on the kind of wood used, 
and its dryness, etc., for in some countries it seems to take 
much more time and labour, two men often working it, one 
beginning at the top of the stick when his companion's hands 
have come down nearly to the bottom, and so on till the fire 

Contrasting with the isolation of the stick-and-groove in a 
single district, the geographical range of the simple fire-drill is 
immense. Its use among the Australians forms one of the 
characters which distinguish their culture from that of the Poly- 
nesians ; while it appears again among the Malays in Sumatra 2 
and the Carolines. 3 It was found by Cook in Unalashka, 4 and 
by the Russians in Kamchatka ; where, for many years, flint 
and steel could not drive it out of use among the natives, who 
went on carrying every man his fire -sticks. 5 There is reason 
to suppose that it prevailed in India before the Aryans invaded 
the country, bringing with them an improved apparatus, for at 
this day it is used by the wild Veddahs of Ceylon, a race so 
capable of resisting foreign innovation that they have not learnt 
to smoke tobacco. 6 It prevails, or has done so within modern 
times, through great part of South Africa, 7 and it was in use 
among the Guanches of the Canary Islands in the seventeenth 

1 Cook, First Toy. H., vol. iii. p. 234. Angas, S. Australia, pi. 27. 

2 Marsden, p. 60. 3 Kotzebue, vol. iii. p. 154. 
4 Cook, Third Voy., vol. ii. p. 513. 5 Kracheninnikow, p. 30. 

6 Tennent, ' Ceylon,' vol. ii. p. 451. Bailey in Tr. Eth. Soc., 1863, p. 291. 
1 Casalis, p. 129. Klemm, C. W., part i. p. 67. 



Fig. 22. 

century. 1 In North America it is described among Esquimaux 
and Indian tribes. 2 It was 
in use in Mexico, 3 and Fig. 
22, taken from an ancient 
Mexican picture-writing, 
shows the drill being twirl- 
ed ; while fire, drawn in the 
usual conventional manner, 
comes out from the hole 
where the point revolves. 
It was in use in Central 
America, 4 in the West In- 
dies, 5 and in South America, down as far as the Straits of 
Magellan. 6 

The name of " fire-drill " has not, however, been adopted 
merely with reference to this simplest form. This rude instru- 
ment is, as may well be supposed, very wasteful of time and 
power, and it has been improved by several contrivances which 
so closely correspond to those applied to boring-tools, that the 
most convenient plan is to classify them together. Even the 
clumsy plan of the simple fire-drill has been found in use for 
boring holes. It has been mentioned at page 187, as in use 
for drilling hard stone among rude Indians of South America, 
and, what is much more surprising, the natives of Madagascar 
bored holes by working their drill between the palms of their 
hands, 7 though they were so far advanced in the arts as to 
make and use iron tools, and of course the very drills worked 
in this primitive way were pointed with iron. 

The principle of the common carpenter's brace, with which 

1 Glas, ■ Canary Islands ;' London, 1764, p. 8. 

2 Klemm, C. G., vol. ii. p. 239. Schoolcraft, part i. p. 214. Loskiel, p. 70, 
Lafitau, ' Moeurs des Sauvages Ameriquains ;' Paris, 1724, vol. ii. p. 242. 

3 Kingsborough, Selden MS., Vatican MS. 

4 Brasseur, « Popol-Vuh,' pp. 64, 218, 243. 

5 Oviedo, • Hystoria General de las Indias ; ' Salamanca, 1547, vi. 5. 

6 Spix and Martius, vol. ii. p. 387, and plates. Purchas, vol. iii. p. 983; vol. iv. 
p. 1345. Molina, vol. ii. p. 122. Dobrizhoffer, vol. ii. p. 118. Garcilaso de la 
Vega, ' Comentarios Eeales ' (2nd ed.) ; Madrid, 1723, p. 198. 

7 Ellis, ■ Madagascar,' vol. i. p. 317. 



he works his centre-bit, is applied to fire-making by a very 
simple device represented in Fig. 23, which is drawn according 

to Mr. Darwin's descrip- 
tion of the plan used by 
the Gauchos of the Pam- 
pas ; " taking an elastic 
stick about eighteen inch- 
es long, he presses one 
end on his breast, and the 
other (which is pointed) 
in a hole in a piece of 
wood, and then rapidly 
Fl S- 23 - turns the curved part, 

like a carpenter's centre-bit." 1 The Gauchos, it should be ob- 
served, are not savages, but half-wild herdsmen of mix;ed Eu- 
ropean, Indian, and African blood, who would probably only 
use such a means of kindling fire when the flint and steel were 
for the moment not at hand, and their fire-drill is not only like 
the carpenter's brace, but most likely suggested by it. 

To wind a cord or thong round the drill, so as, by pulling 
the two ends alternately, to make it revolve very rapidly, is 
a great improvement on mere hand- twirling. As Kuhn has 
pointed out, this contrivance was in use for boring in Europe 
in remote times ; Odysseus describes it in telling how he and 
his companions put out the eye of the Cyclops : — 

ol fiiv fiO)(Xov iXojres ekaivov, of-vv eV (iicpcp, 
6(pda\pa> evepeicrav e'yeb 6"' tfvGepQfP depdcls, 
biveov las ore tis Tpvnco dopv vrfiov dvrjp 
rpviravwy ol de r evepOev vTroaaelovcriv IfidvTi 
ch/m/zeiXH eKarepde, to be rpe^et ip,p,eves ate/. 2 

" They then seizing the sharp-cut stake of the wood of the olive 
Thrust it into his eye, the while I standing above them, 
Bored it into the hole : — as a shipwright boreth a timber, 
Guiding the drill that his men below drive backward and forward, 
Pulling the ends of the thong while the point runs round without 

In modern India, butter-churns are worked with a cord in 

1 Darwin, in Narr., vol. iii. p. 488. 

2 Kuhn, * Herabkunft des Feuers,' p. 39. Horn. Od., ix. 382. 



this way, and the Brahmans still use a cord-drill in producing 
the sacred fire, as will be more fully stated presently. Half- 
way round the world, the same thing is found among the Es- 
quimaux. Davis (after whom Davis's Straits are named) de- 
scribes in 1586 how a Greenlander "beganne to kindle a fire 
in this maner : he tooke a piece of a board wherein was a 
hole halfe thorow : into that hole he puts the end of a round 
stick like unto a bedstaffe, wetting the end thereof in Trane, 
and in fashion of a turner with a piece of lether, by his violent 
motion doeth very speedily produce fire." 1 The cut, Fig. 24, 
is taken from a drawing of the last century, representing two 
Esquimaux making fire, one holding a cross-piece to keep the 
spindle steady and force it well down to its bearing, while the 
other pulls the thong. 2 This form of the apparatus takes two 

Fig. 24. 

men to work it, but the Esquimaux have devised a modifica- 
tion of it which a man can work alone. Sir E. Belcher thus 
describes its use for drilling holes by means of a point of green 
jade : — ' ' The thong . . . being passed twice round the drill, 
the upper end is steadied by a mouthpiece of wood, having a 

1 Hakluyt, vol. iii. p. 104. 

2 Henry Ellis, • Voyage to Hudson's Bay ;' London, 1748, pp. 132, 234. 



piece of the same stone imbedded, with a countersunk cavity. 
This held firmly between the teeth directs the tool. Any work- 
man would be astonished at the performance of this tool on 
ivory ; but having once tried it myself, I found the jar or vi- 
bration on the jaws, head, and brain, quite enough to prevent 
my repeating it." 1 There is a set of Esquimaux apparatus for 
making fire in the same manner, in the Edinburgh Industrial 

Fig. 25. 

Museum, and Fig. 25 is intended to show the way in which 
it is worked. The thong-drill with the mouthpiece has been 
found in use in the Aleutian Islands, both for boring holes and 
for making fire. 2 Lastly, there is a kind of cord- drill used by 
the New Zealanders in boring holes through hard greenstone, 
etc., in which the spindle itself is weighted. It is described as 
a " sharp wooden stick ten inches ■ long, to the centre of which 
two stones are attached, so as to exert pressure and perform 
the office of a fly-wheel. The requisite rotatory motion is 
given to the stick by two strings pulled alternately." 3 There 
must of course be some means of keeping the spindle upright. 
The New Zealanders do not seem to have used their drill for 
fire-making as well as for boring, but to have kept to their 

1 Sir E. Belcher, in Tr. Eth. Soc, 1861, p. 140. 

2 Kotzebue, vol. iii. p. 155. 

3 Thomson, ■ New Zealand,' vol. i. p. 203. 


To substitute for the mere thong or cord a bow with a loose 
string, is a still further improvement, for one hand now does 
the work of two in driving the spindle. The centre, in which 
its end turns, may be held down with the other hand, or (as is 
very usual) set against the breast of the operator. The bow- 
drill, thus formed, is a most ancient and well-known boring 
instrument, familiar to the artisan in modern Europe as it was 
in ancient Egypt. The only place where I have found any notice 
of its use for fire-making is 
among the North American 
Indians. The plate from 
which Fig. 26 is taken is 
marked by Schoolcraft as 
representing the apparatus 
used by the Sioux, or Da- 
cotahs. 1 If they really used 
it, they may possibly have 
caught the idea from the 
European bow- drill. Fi g- 26 - 

Lastly, there is a curious little contrivance, known to English 
toolmakers as the " pump-drill/' from its being worked up / < 
and down like a pump. That kept in the London tool-shops v 
is all of metal, expanding into a bulb instead of the disk 
shown in Fig. 27, which represents the kind used in Switzer- 
land, consisting of & wooden spindle, armed with a steel point, 
and weighted with a wooden disk. A string is made fast to 
the ends of the cross-piece, and in the middle to the top of the 
spindle. As the hand brings the cross-piece down it unwinds 
the cord, driving the spindle round; as the hand is lifted * 
again, the disk, acting as a fly-wheel, runs on and re-winds 
the cord, and so on. Holtzappfel says that the pump-drill is 
as well known among the Oriental nations as the breast-drill, 
though it is little used in England except by china and glass 
menders. 2 Perhaps it may have found its way over from Asia 

1 Schoolcraft, part iii. pi. 28. But the description, p. 228, does not correspond, 
being that of the simple hand fire-drill, and the accompanying figure, under which 
" Iroquois " is written, is wrongly drawn. 

2 Holtzappfel, 'Turning and Mechanical Manipulation;' London, 1856, toI. ii. 
p. 557. 




to the South Sea Islands ; at any rate it is found there. Fig. 28 
shows it as used in Fakaafo or Bow ditch Island, differing from 
the Swiss form only in being armed with a stone instead of a 
steel point, and in having no hole through the cross-piece. 1 

Fig. 27. 

Fig. 28. 

Mr. Turner describes it in the neighbouring Samoan or Navi- 
gators' Islands, as pointed with a nail or a sail needle, got from 
the foreigners, 2 but the specimen presented by him to the 
Hunterian Museum at Glasgow has a stone point. The natives 
use it for drilling their fish-hooks made of shell ; for which pur- 
pose, as for drilling holes in china, it is peculiarly adapted, the 
lightness and evenness of its pressure lessening the danger of 
cracking these brittle materials. One would think that this 
quality would make the pump -drill particularly unsuitable for 
fire-making ; but, nevertheless, by making it very large and 
heavy, it has been turned to this service in North America, 
among the Iroquois Indians. Fig. 29 (drawn to a small scale) re- 
presents their apparatus, which is thus described by Mr. Lewis 
H. Morgan : — " This is an Indian invention, and of great anti- 
quity. ... It consisted of an upright shaft, about four feet in 
length, and an inch in diameter, with a small wheel set upon 

1 Wilkes, U. S. Exp., vol. v. p. 17. 2 Turner, p. 273. 



Fig. 29. 

the lower part, to give it momentum. In a notch at the top of 
the shaft was set a string, attached 
to a bow about three feet in length. 
The lower point rested upon a block 
of dry wood, near which are placed 
small pieces of punk. When ready- 
to use, the string is first coiled 
around the shaft, by turning it with 
the hand. The bow is then pulled 
downwards, thus uncoiling the 
string, and revolving the shaft 
towards the left. By the momentum 
given to the wheel, the string is 
again coiled up in a reverse manner, 
and the bow again drawn up. The 
bow is again pulled downwards, and the revolution of the 
shaft reversed, uncoiling the string, and recoiling it as before. 
This alternate revolution of the shaft is continued, until sparks 
are emitted from the point where it rests upon the piece of dry 
wood below. Sparks are produced in a few moments by the 
intensity of the friction, and ignite the punk, which speedily 
furnishes a fire." 1 

It is now necessary to notice other methods of producing 
fire which, have been found in use in various parts of the world. 

The natives of Tierra del Fuego are notably distinguished 
from their northern neighbours by their way of fire-making. 
In 1520, Magalhaens on his famous voyage visited the gigantic 
Patagonians, who thought the Spaniards had come down from 
heaven, and who, explaining to the European visitors the native 
theology, told them of their chief god, Setebos. The savages 
who thus helped to furnish the picture of the " servant-monster," 
Caliban, 2 showed their manner of making fire, which was by 
the friction of two pieces of wood. 3 But the Fuegians have 

1 L. H. Morgan, 'League of the Iroquois ;' Kochester, TJ. S., 1851, p. 381. 

2 Cal.—" Hast thou not dropped from heaven ? " (' Tempest,' act ii. scene 2.) 

" It would control my dam's god, Setebos." (Id. act i. scene 2). 
a Pigafetta, in Pinkerton, vol. xi. 


for centuries used a higher method, striking sparks with a flint 
from a piece of iron pyrites upon their tinder. This process is 
described as still in use, 1 and is evidently what Captain Wallis 
meant by saying (in 1 767), that "To kindle a fire they strike a 
pebble against a piece of mundic." 2 A much earlier account of 
the same thing appears in the voyage of Sarmiento de Gamboa, 
in 1579-80. 3 Iron pyrites answers extremely well instead of the 
steel, and was found in regular use in high northern latitudes 
in America, among the Slave and Dog Rib Indians. 4 It is 
probably the " iron-stone" which the Esquimaux call njarak- 
saviminilik, and from which they strike fire with a fragment of 
flint, 5 and is perhaps referred to in Father Le Jeune's statement 
that the Algonquin Indians strike fire with two minerals {pierres 
de mine) . 6 The use of iron pyrites for striking fire was known 
to the Greeks and Romans, and it shared with flint the name 
of ^re-stone, 7rvptT7)<;, pyrites, which it and some other metallic 
sulphurets have since taken entire possession of. 

Two accounts of a process of fire-making in and about North- 
West America are unfortunately indefinite. Captain Cook re- 
marked that in Unalashka the natives produced fire by striking 
two stones, one with a good deal of brimstone rubbed on it. 7 
Their neighbours, the Aleutian Islanders, Kotzebue says, make 
fire by striking together two stones with sulphur rubbed in, 
over dry moss also strewed with sulphur. 8 It does not seem 
an easy thing to light tinder in this way with two flints, though 
particles of the sulphur easily ignite, and I have been told by 
a gun-flint maker that gunpowder may be lighted by throwing 
a quantity of flint chips violently down upon it on a flagstone. 

1 W. P. Snow, 'Tierra del Fuego,' etc. ; London, 1857, vol. ii. p. 360. 

2 Wallis, in Hawkesworth, vol. i. p. 171. 

3 Sarmiento de Gamboa, * Viage al Estrecho de Magallanes ;' Madrid, 1768, 
p. 229. " Y unos pedazos de pedernal, pasados, y pintados de margaxita de oro y 
plata : y preguntandoles que para que era aquello ? dixeron por seiias, que para 
sacar fuego ; y luego uno de ellos tomd unas plumas de las que trahia, y sirvien- 
dole de yesca, saco fuego con el pedernal. Pareceme que es (casca?) de metal de 
plata u oro de veta, porque es al natural como el euriquixo de porco en el Pini." 

4 Mackenzie, ■ Voyages ; ' London, 1801, p. 38. Klemm, C. Gh, vol. ii. p. 26. 
6 Hayes, ' Arctic Boat Journey ; ' London, 1860, p. 217. 

6 Le Jeune, ' Eelation,' etc. (1634) ; Paris, 1635, p. 91. Lafitau, vol. ii. p. 242. 

7 Cook, Third Voy., vol. ii. p. 513. 8 Kotzebue, vol. iii. p. 155. 


Father Zucchelli, who was a missionary in West Africa about 
the beginning of last century, gives the following account of 
the way in which, he says, the negroes made fire on their 
journeys : — " When they found a fire-stone (Feuerstein) on the 
road, they lay down by it on their knees, took a little piece of 
wood in their hands,, and threw sand between the stone and the 
wood, rubbiug them so long against one another till the wood 
began to burn, and herewith they all lighted their pipes, and 
so went speedily forth again smoking on their journey." 1 It 
is possible that not flint (as is usual), but pyrites, may here be 
meant by feuerstein. 

The flint and steel may have come into use at any time after 
the beginning of the Iron age, but history fails to tell us the 
date of its introduction in Greece and Rome, China, and most 
other districts of the Old World. In modern times it has made 
its way with iron into many new places, though it has not 
always been able to supersede the fire-sticks at once; some- 
times, it seems, from a difficulty in getting flints. For instance, 
it was necessary in Sumatra to import the flints from abroad, 
and thus they did not come immediately into general use among 
the natives ; and there may perhaps be a similar reason for the 
fire-drill having held its ground t<3 this day among some of the 
iron-using races of Southern Africa. 

The Greeks were familiar with the use of the burning-lens 
in the time of Aristophanes, who mentions it in the c Clouds/ 
in a dialogue between Socrates and Strepsiades : — 

" Socrates. Yery good : now I'll set you another smart question. If 
some one entered an action against you to recover five talents, tell me, how 
would you cancel it ? 

Strepsiades. I have found a very clever way to cancel the suit, as you 
will agree yourself. 

Socrates. What kind of a way ? 

Strepsiades. Have you ever seen that stone in the druggists' shops, 
that pretty, transparent one, that they light fire with? 

Socrates. The crystal, you mean ? 

Strepsiades. I do. 

Socrates. Well, what then ? 

1 Zucchelli, ' Merck wiirdige Missions- und Eeise-Beschreibung nach Congo ;' 
Frankfort, 1715, p. 344. 


Strepsiades. Suppose I take this, and when the clerk enters the suit, I 
stand thus, a long way off, towards the sun, and melt out the letters ! 
Socrates. Very clever, by the Graces ! " x 

At a much later period Pliny mentions that glass balls with 
water put into them, when set opposite to the sun, get so hot 
as to set clothes on fire; and that he finds surgeons consider 
the best means of cautery to be a crystal ball placed opposite 
to the sun's rays. 2 The Chinese commonly use the burning- 
lens to light fire with, as well as the flint and steel. 3 

The fact that fire may be produced by reflecting the sun's 
rays with mirrors was known as early as Pliny's time (a.d. 
23-79), as he remarks, " seeing that concave mirrors placed 
opposite to the sun's rays ignite things more easily than any 
other fire." 4. There is some reason to suppose that the know- 
ledge of this phenomenon worked backwards into history, at- 
taching itself to two famous names of old times, Archimedes 
and Numa Pompilius. The story of Archimedes setting the 
fleet on fire at Syracuse with burning mirrors, probably un- 
known as it was to historians for centuries after his time, need 
not be further remarked on here ; but the story of Numa re- 
appears on the other side of the world, under circumstances 
which make its discussion % matter of importance to ethno- 

It is related by Plutarch in his life of Numa, written in the 
first century, that among the ordinances made for the Vestal 
Virgins when they were established in Eome, there was the 
following. If the sacred fire which it was their duty to keep 
continually burning should happen to go out, it was not to be 
lighted again from another fire, but new fire was to be made 
by lighting from the sun a pure and undefiled flame. " And 
they kindle it especially with vessels which are shaped hollow 
from the side of an isosceles triangle with a (vertical) right 
angle, and converge from the circumference to a single centre. 
When such an instrument is set opposite to the sun, so that 
the impinging rays from all sides crowd and fold together 
round the centre, it divides the rarefied air, and quickly kindles 

1 Aristoph., Nubes, 757, etc. 2 Pliny, xxxvi. 67, xxxvii. 10. 

3 Davis, vol. iii. p. 51. 4 Pliny, ii. 111. 


the lightest and driest matters applied to it, the beams acquir- 
ing by the repulsion a body and fiery stroke." 1 Stories of 
Numa's ordinances will hardly be claimed as sober history, 
though it is possible that such a process as this may have been 
used, at least in late times, to rekindle the fire of Yesta. But 
there is in Festus another account of the way in which this 
was done, having in its favour every analogy from the prac- 
tices of kindling the sacred fire among our Indo-European 
race, both in Asia and in Europe. " If the fire of Vesta were 
extinguished, the virgins were scourged by the priests, whose 
practice it was to drill into a board of auspicious wood till the 
fire came, which was received and carried to the temple by the 
virgin, in a brazen colander." 2 

The parallel passage to that in the life of Numa is to be 
found in the account of the feast of Eaymi, or the Sun, cele- 
brated in ancient Peru, according to Garcilaso de la Vega, 
whose ( Commentaries ' were first published in 1609-16, the 
Spanish discovery having taken place in 1527. He says this 
festival was celebrated at the summer solstice. " The fire for 
this sacrifice had to be new, given, as they said, by the hand 
of the sun. For which purpose they took a great bracelet, 
which they call Chipana (like the others which the Incas com- 
monly wore on the left wrist), which bracelet the high priest 
kept ; it was larger than the common ones, and had as its me- 
dallion a concave cup like a half orange, highly polished, they 
set it against the sun, and at a certain point where the rays 
issuing from the cup came together, they put a little finely- 
carded cotton, as they did not know how to make tinder, which 
shortly took fire, as it naturally does. With this fire, thus 
given by the hand of the Sun, the sacrifice was burnt, and all 
the meat of that day was roasted. And they carried some of 
the fire to the Temple of the Sun, and to the House of the 
Virgins, where they kept it up all the year, and it was a bad 

1 Plutarch, * Yita Numse,' ix. 7. 

2 Festus. 5' Ignis Testae si quando interstinctus esset, virgines verberibus 
afficiebantur a pontificibus, quibus mos erat tabulam felicis materia? tamdiu 
terebrare, quousque exceptum ignem cribro eeneo virgo in sedem ferret." See 
Val. Max., I. i. 6. 


omen if they let it out in any way. If, on the eve of the fes- 
tival, which was when the necessary preparations for the fol- 
lowing day were made, there was no sun to light the new fire, 
they made it with two thin smooth sticks as big as one's little 
finger, and half a yard long, boring one against the other 
(barrenando uno con otro) ; these little sticks are cinnamon co- 
loured, and they call both the sticks themselves and the fire- 
making V-yaca, one and the same term serving for noun and 
verb. The Indians use them instead of flint and steel, and 
carry them on their journeys to get fire when they have to pass 
the night in uninhabited places," etc. etc. 1 

If circumstantiality of detail were enough to make a story 
credible, we might be obliged to receive this one, and even to 
argue on the wonderful agreement of the manner of kindling 
the sacred fire in Rome and in Peru. But the coincidences 
between Garcilaso's Virgins of the Sun and Plutarch's Vestal 
Virgins go farther than this. "We are not only expected to 
believe that there were Virgins of the Sun, that they kept up 
a sacred fire whose extinction was an evil omen, and that this 
fire was lighted by the sun's rays concentrated in a concave 
mirror. We are also told that in Cuzco, as in Rome, the virgin 
found unfaithful was to be punished by the special punishment 
of being buried alive. 2 This is really too much. Whatever 
may be the real basis of fact in the accounts of the Virgins of 
the Sun and the feast of Raymi, the inference seems, to me at 
least, most probable, that part or all of the accessory detail is 
not history, but the realization of an idea of which Garcilaso 
himself strikes the key-note when he says of this same feast 
of Raymi, that it was celebrated by the Incas u in the city of 
Cozco, which was another Rome" (quefue otra Roma). 3 Those 
who happen to have experience of the old chroniclers of Spanish 
America know how the whole race was possessed by a passion 
for bringing out the Old World stories in a new guise, with a 
local habitation and a name in America. Garcilaso's story of 

1 G-arcilaso do la Vega, p. 198. 

2 Id., p. 109. Compare Diego Fernandez, Hist, del Peru, Seville, 1571, " y 
nadie podia tratar, ni conversar con estas Mamaconas. Y si alguno lo intentaua, 
luego le iuterrauan biuo." 3 Id., p. 195. 


the burning-mirror, supposing it to be an adaptation from 
Plutarch, would not even be the best illustration of this mo- 
dern phase of Mythology ; that distinction must be reserved for 
the reproduction by another chronicler of another of Plutarch's 
stories, that of the shout that was raised when the Roman 
herald proclaimed the liberty of the Greeks, — such a shout that 
it brought the crows tumbling down into the race-course from 
the sky above. 1 The Incas, says Sarmiento, " were so feared, 
that if they went out through the kingdom, and allowed a 
curtain of their litters to be lifted that their vassals might see 
them, they raised so great an acclamation that they made the 
birds fall from where they were flying above, so that the people 
could catch them in their hands." 2 

Against the abstract possibility of Garcilaso's story of the 
lighting of the sacred fire with concave mirrors, there is no 
more to be said than against Plutarch's. With a good para- 
bolic mirror only two inches in diameter, I have lighted brown ^s T 
paper under an English sun of no extraordinary power, and 
other surfaces which will make a good caustic will answer, 
though of course they have less burning power than a parabo- 
loid of revolution of equal size. There is even a material basis 
out of which the Peruvian story may have grown. In the an- 
cient tombs of Peru, mirrors both of pyrites and obsidian have 
been found. Some, three or four inches in diameter, were 
probably mere broken nodules of pyrites, polished on the flat 
side, but one is mentioned measuring about a foot and a half 
(probably in circumference), which had a beautifully-polished 
concave surface, so as to magnify objects considerably, 3 and 
such a mirror may have been used for making fire. Indeed, 
the objection to the story of the Virgins of the Sun is not that 
any of the details I have mentioned must of necessity be un- 
true, but that the apparent traces of absorption from Plutarch 
invalidate whatever rests on Garcilaso de la Vega's unsup- 
ported testimony. 

To conclude the notice of the art of fire-making in general, 

1 Plut., T. Quinct. Flaminius, x. 

2 Sarmiento, MS. cited in Prescott, Peru, vol. i. p. 25. 

3 Juan & Ulloa, ' Relacion Historica \ Madrid, 1748, p. 619. 


its last phase, the invention of lucifer matches in our own day, 
is fast spreading over the world, and bringing most other fire- 
making instruments down to the condition of curious relics of 
a past time. 

But though some of the higher methods date far back in the 
history of the Old World, the employment of the wooden fric- 
tion-apparatus in Europe, even for the practical purposes of 
ordinary life, has come up through the classical and mediaeval 
times into the last century, and for all we know it may still 
exist. Pliny speaks of its finding a use among the outposts of 
armies and among shepherds, a stone to strike fire with not 
being always to be had j 1 and in a remarkable account dating 
from 1768, which will be quoted presently, its use by Eussian 
peasants for making fire in the woods is spoken of as an exist- 
ing custom, just as, at a much more recent date, it is men- 
tioned that the Portuguese Brazilians still have recourse to the 
fire-drill, when no other means of getting a light are forth- 
coming. 2 For the most part, however, the early use of the in- 
strument in the Old World is only to be traced in ancient 
myths, in certain ceremonial practices which have been brought 
down unchanged into a new state of culture, and in descrip- 
tions by Greek and Roman writers of the art. It had lost, 
even then, its practical importance in everyday life, though lin- 
gering on, as it still does in our own day, in rites for which it 
was necessary to use pure wild fire, not the tame fire that lay 
like a domestic animal upon the hearth. 

The traditions of inventors of the art of fire -making by the 
friction of wood have in so far an historical value, that they 
bring clearly into view a period when this was the usual practice. 
There is a Chinese myth that points to such a state of things, 
and which moreover presents, in the story of the u fire-bird/' 
an analogy with a set of myths belonging to our own race, 
which may well be due to a deep-lying ethnological connexion. 
" A great sage went to walk beyond the bounds of the moon 
and the sun ; he saw a tree, and on this tree a bird, which 
pecked at it and made fire come forth. The sage was struck 

1 Pliny, xvi. 77. 

2 Pr. Max. t. AVied., ' Reise nach Brasilien' (1815-7), vol. ii. p. 19. 


with this, took a branch of the tree and produced fire from it, 
and thence this great personage was called Suy-jin." 1 The 
friction-apparatus itself, apparently of the kind spoken of here 
as the fire-drill, is mentioned in Morrison's Chinese Diction- 
ary. " Say, an instrument to obtain fire. A speculum for ob- 
taining fire from the sun is called say or hin-suy. Muh-suy, an 
utensil to procure fire from wood by rotatory friction. Suy- 
jin-she, the first person who procured fire for the use of man." 
The very existence of a Chinese name for the fire-drill shows 
that it is, or has been, in use in the country. 

The absence of evidence relating to fire-making in the Bi- 
ble is remarkable. If, indeed, the following passage from the 
cosmogony of Sanchoniathon be founded on a Phoenician le- 
gend, it preserves a record of the use of the fire-stick among 
the Semitic race. " They say that from the wind Kolpia, and 
his wife Baan, which is interpreted Night, there were born 
mortal men, called iEon and Protogonos ; and J&on found how 
to get food from trees. And those born from them were called 
Genos and Genea, and they inhabited Phoenicia. . . . More- 
over, they say that, again, from Genos, son of ^Eon and Proto- 
gonos, there were born mortal children, whose names were 
Phos, Pur, and Phlox (Light, Fire, and Flame). These, they 
say, found out how to make fire from the friction of pieces of 
wood, and taught its use." 2 

Thus, too, though direct history does not tell us that the 
Finns and Lapps used the fire-drill before they had the flint 
and steel, there is a passage safely preserving the memory of 
its use in a Finnish poem, whose native metre is familiar to our 
ears from its imitation in l Hiawatha ; ' 

" Panu parka, Tuonen poika, 
kirnusi tulisen kirnun, 
sakeisin saikytteli, 
pukemiasa puhtaissa, 
walkehissa waatteissa." 

" Panu, the poor son of Tuoni, 
Churning fiercely at the fire-churn, 

1 Goguet, vol. iii. p. 321. See Kuhn, p. 28, etc. 

2 Euseb,, Prsep. Evang. i. x. 


Scattering fiery sparks around him, 
Clothed in a pure white garment, 
In a white and shining garment." ' 

It is, however, by our own race that the most remarkable 
body of evidence of the ancient use of the fire-drill has been 
preserved. The very instrument still used in India for kindling 
the sacrificial fire seems never to have changed since the time 
when our ancestors left their eastern home to invade Europe. 
It is thus described : — " The process by which fire is obtained 
from wood is called churning, as it resembles that by which 
butter in India is separated from milk. ... It consists in 
drilling one piece of arani-wood into another by pulling a 
string tied to it with a jerk with the one hand, while the other 
is slackened, and so alternately till the wood takes fire. The 
fire is received on cotton or flax held in the hand of an as- 
sistant Brahman. " 2 By this description it would seem that the 
Indian instrument is the same in principle as the Esquimaux 
thong- drill, shown in Fig. 24. It is driven by a three-stranded 
cord of cowhair and hemp ; and there is probably a piece of 
wood pressed down upon the upper end of the spindle, to keep 
it down to its bearing. 3 In the name of Prometheus the fire- 
maker, the close connection with the Sanskrit name of this 
spindle, pramantha, has never been broken. Possibly both he 
and the Chinese Suy-jin may be nothing more than personifi- 
cations of the fire-drill. 

Professor Kuhn, in his mythological treatise on 'Fire and 
Ambrosia/ has collected a quantity of evidence from Greek and 
Latin authors, which makes it appear that the fire-making in- 
strument, whose use was kept up in Europe, was not the stick - 
and-groove, but the fire-drill. The operation is distinctly 
described as boring or drilling; and it seems, moreover, that 
the fire-drill was worked in ancient Europe, as in India and 
among the Esquimaux, with a cord or thong, for the spindle is 

1 Kuhn, p. 110. 2 Stevenson, in Kuhn, p. 13. 

3 If so, the upper and lower blocks may be the upper and lower arani, and the 
spindle the pramantha, or cdtra. See Kuhn, pp. 13, 15, 78 ; also Boehtlingk 
and Roth, s. v. arani, cdtra. The anointing with butter (Kuhn, p. 78), cor- 
responds to the use of train oil by the Esquimaux. 


compared to, or spoken of as, a rpviravov, which instrument, 
as appears in the passage quoted from the Odyssey at page 240, 
was a drill driven by a thong. 1 

The traces of the old fire-making in modern Europe lie, for 
the most part, in close connexion with the ancient and wide- 
spread rite of the New Fire, which belongs to the Aryans 
among other branches of the human race, and especially with 
one variety of this rite, which has held its own even in Germany 
and England into quite late times, in spite of all the efforts of 
the Church to put it down. This is what the Germans call 
nothfeuer, and we needfire; though whether the term is to be 
understood literally, or whether it has dropped a guttural, and 
stands for fire made by kneading or rubbing, is not clear. 

What the nature and object of the needfire is, may be seen 
in Reiske's account of the practice in Germany in the seven- 
teenth century : — "When a murrain has broken out among the 
great and small cattle, and the herds have suffered much harm, 
the farmers determine to make a needfire. On an appointed 
day there must be no single flame of fire in any house or on 
any hearth. From each house straw, and water, and brush- 
wood must be fetched, and a stout oak-post driven fast into the 
ground, and a hole bored through it ; in this a wooden wind- 
lass is stuck, well smeared with cart-pitch and tar, and turned 
round so long that, with the fierce heat and force, it gives forth 
fire. This is caught in proper materials, increased with straw, 
heath, and brushwood, till it breaks out into a full needfire ; 
and this must be somewhat spread out lengthways between 
walls or fences, and the cattle and horses hunted with sticks 
and whips two or three times through it," etc. 2 Various ways 
of arranging the apparatus are mentioned by Reiske and other 
authorities quoted by Grimm, such as fixing the spindle be- 
tween two posts, etc. How the spindle is turned is some- 
times doubtful; but in several places the Indian practice of 
driving it with a rope wound round it, and pulled backwards 
and forwards, comes clearly into view ; while sometimes a cart 
wheel is spun round upon an axle ; or a spindle is worked round 

1 Kuhn, c Herabkunft des Feuers,' etc., pp. 36-40, citing Theoplirastus, Hesy- 
chius, Simplicius, Festus, etc. 2 Grimm, D. M., p. 570. 


with levers, or two planks are rubbed violently together, till 
the fire comes. 1 

The last two recorded accounts of the needfire known to 
Kuhn are from Hanover in 1828, and from England in 1826. 2 
The c Mirror ' of June 24th of that year takes from the ' Perth 
Courier ' a description of the rite, as performed not far from 
Perth, by a farmer who had lost several cattle by some dis- 
ease : — ( ' A few stones were piled together in the barn-yard, 
and wood-coals having been laid thereon, the fuel was ignited 
by will-fire, that is, lire obtained by friction : the neighbours 
having been called in to witness the solemnity, the cattle were 
made to pass through the flames, in the order of their dignity 
and age, commencing with the horses and ending with the 

Some varieties of the rite of the New Fire, connected with 
the Sun-worship so deeply rooted in the popular mind from 
before the time of the Yedas, were countenanced, or at least 
tolerated, by the Church. Such are the bonfires at Easter, 
Midsummer Eve, and some other times; and, in one case, 
there is ground for supposing that the old rite was taken up 
into the Eoman Church, in the practice of putting out the 
church candles on Easter Eve, and lighting them again with 
consecrated new-made fire, — 

" On Easter Eve the fire all is quencht in every place, 
And fresh againe from out the flint is fetcht with solemne grace : 
The priest doth halow this against great daungers many one, 
A brande whereof doth every man with greedie mind take home, 
That, when the feareful storme appeares, or tempest black arise, 
By lighting this he safe may be from stroke of hurtful skies." 3 

Here the traces of the Indian mythology come out with 
beautiful clearness. The lightning is the fire that flies from the 
heavenly fire- churn, as the gods whirl it in the clouds. The 
New Fire is its representative on earth ; and, like the thunder- 
bolt, preserves from the lightning-flash the house in which it is, 
for the lightning strikes no place twice. 

But in this ceremony the flint and steel has superseded the 

1 Grimm, D. M., pp. 570-9. 2 Kuhn, p. 45. 

3 Brand, 'Popular Antiquities;' London, 1853, vol. i. p. 157. 


ancient friction-fire ; and, indeed, the Western clergy, as a 
rule, discountenanced it as heathenish. In the Capitularies of 
Carloman, in the eighth century, there is a prohibition of " illos 
sacrilegos ignes quos niedfyr vocant." 1 The result of this op- 
position by the Church was, in great measure, to break the con- 
nexion between the old festivals of the Sun, which the Church 
allowed, and the lighting of the needfire, which is so closely 
connected with the Sun-worship in our ancient Aryan mytho- 
logy. Still, even in Germany, there are documents that bring 
the two together. A glossary to the Capitularies says, u the 
rustic folks in many places in Germany, and indeed on the 
feast of St. John the Baptist, pull a stake from a hedge and 
bind a rope round it, which they pull hither and thither till it 
takes fire," etc.; and a Low German book of 1593 speaks of 
the " nodfiire, that they sawed out of wood" to light the 
St. John's bonfire, and through which the people leapt and 
ran, and drove their cattle. 2 

It appears, however, that the Eastern and Western churches 
differed widely in their treatment of the old rite. The Western 
clergy discountenanced, and, as far as they could, put down the 
needfire ; but in Russia it was not only allowed, but was (and 
very likely may be still) practised under ecclesiastical sanction, 
the priest being the chief actor in the ceremony. This inter- 
esting fact seems not to have been known to Grimm and 
Kuhn, and the following passage, which proves it, is still fur- 
ther remarkable as asserting that the ancient fire-making by 
friction was still used in Russia for practical as well as ceremo- 
nial purposes in the last century. It is contained in an ac- 
count of the adventures of four Russian sailors, who were 
driven by a storm upon the desert island of East- Spitsbergen. 3 
" They knew, however, that if one rubs violently together two 
pieces of dry wood, one hard and the other soft, the latter will 
catch fire. Besides this being the way in which the Russian 
peasants obtain fire when they are in the woods, there is also 

1 Cap. Carlomanni in Grimm, D. M., p. 570. 

3 Grimm, D. M., pp. 570, 579. See also Migne, Lex. s. v. " Nedifri." 
3 P. L. le Koy, 'Erzahlung der Begebenheiten,' etc.; Riga, 1760. (An E. Tr. in 
Pinkerton, vol. i.) 



a religious ceremony, performed in every village where there is 
a church, which could not have been unknown to them. Perhaps 
it will be not disagreeable for me here to give an account of 
this ceremony, though it does not belong to the story. The 
18th of August, Old Style, is called by the Russians Frol i 
Lavior, these being the names of two martyrs, called Florus 
and Laurus in the Roman Kalendar; they fall, according to 
this latter, on the 29th of the said month, when the Festival of 
the Beheading of John is celebrated. On this day the Russian 
peasants bring their horses to the village church, at the side of 
which they have dug the evening before a pit with two outlets. 
Each horse has his bridle, which is made of lime-tree bark. 
They let the horses, one after the other, go into this pit, at the 
opposite outlet of which the prijest stands with an asperging- 
brush in his hand, with which he sprinkles them with holy 
water. As soon as the horses are come out, their bridles are 
taken off, and they are made to go between two fires, which 
are kindled with what the Russians call Givoy agon, that is, 
1 living fire/ of which I will give the explanation, after remark- 
ing that the peasants throw the bridles of the horses into one of 
these fires to burn them up. Here is the manner of kindling 
this Givoy agon, or living fire. Some men take hold of the 
ends of a maple staff, very dry, and about a fathom long. This 
staff they hold fast over a piece of birch-wood, which must also 
be very dry, and whilst they vigorously rub the staff upon the 
last wood, which is much softer than the first, it inflames in a 
short time, and serves to kindle the pair of fires, of which I 
have just made mention." 

To sum up now, in a few words, the history of the art of 
making fire, it appears that the common notion that the fric- 
tion of two pieces of wood was the original method used, has 
strong and wide-lying evidence in its favour, and very little 
that can be alleged against it. It has been seen that in many 
districts where higher methods have long prevailed, its former 
existence as a household art is proved by traces that have come 
down to us in several different ways. Where the use of pyrites 
for striking fire is found existing in company with it in North 
America, it is at least likely that the fire-stick is the older in- 


strument. Perhaps the most notable fact bearing on this ques- 
tion is the use of pyrites by the miserable inhabitants of Tierra 
del Fuego. I do not know that the fire- sticks have ever been 
seen among them, but it seems more reasonable to suppose that 
they were used till they were supplanted by the discovery of the 
fire-making property of pyrites, than to make so insignificant a 
people an exception to a world-wide rule. This art of striking 
fire, instead of laboriously producing it with the drill, is not, 
indeed, the only thing in which the culture of this race stands 
above that of their northern neighbours, for, as has been men- 
tioned, these last were found using no navigable craft but rafts, 
while the Fuegians had bark canoes, and those by no means of 
the lowest quality. It is worthy of note that the Peruvians, 
though they had pyrites, and broke the nodules to polish the 
faces into mirrors, do not seem to have used it to strike fire 
with. If they did not, their civilization stood in this matter 
below that of the much-despised Fuegians. The ancient Mexi- 
cans also made mirrors of polished pyrites, and perhaps they 
may have used it to strike fire ; T but the wooden friction-appa- 
ratus was certainly common among them. Even the fire-drills 
of Peru and Mexico were of the simplest kind, twirled between 
the hands without any contrivance to lessen the labour, so that 
even the rude Esquimaux and Indian tribes have reached, in 
this respect, a higher stage of art than these comparatively 
civilized peoples. 

To turn now from the art of making fire to one of its prin- 
cipal uses to mankind. The art of Cooking is as universal as 
Fire itself among the human race ; but there are found, even 
among savages, several different processes that come under the 
general term, and a view of the distribution of these processes 
over the world may throw some light on the early development 
of Human Culture. 

Roasting or broiling by direct exposure to the fire seems the 
one method universally known to mankind, but the use of some 
kind of oven is also very general. The Andaman Islanders 

1 It seems by a passage in Boturini (p. 18), that he had some reason to think 
they used flint to strike fire with, and if so, as they had no iron, they probably 
used pyrites. 



keep fire continually smouldering in hollow trees, so that they 
have only to clear away the ashes at any time to cook their 
little pigs and fish. 1 In Africa, the natives take possession of 
a great ant-hill, destroy the ants, and clear out the inside, leav- 
ing only the clay walls standing, which they make red hot with 
a fire, so as to and bake joints of rhinoceros within. 2 But these 
are unusual expedients, and a much commoner form of savage 
oven is a mere pit in the ground. In the most elaborate kind 
of this cooking in underground ovens, hot stones are put in 
with the food, as in the familiar South- Sea Island practice, 
which is too well known to need description. The Malagasy 
plan seems to be the same; 3 but the Polynesians and their 
connexions have by no means a monopoly of the art, which is 
practised with little or no difference in other parts of the world. 
The Guanches of the Canary Islands buried meat in a hole in 
the ground, and lighted a fire over it ; 4 and a similar practice 
is still sometimes found in the island of Sardinia, 5 while among 
the Beduins, and in places in North and South America, the pro- 
cess comes even closer to that used in the South Seas. 6 It is 
this wide diffusion of the art which makes it somewhat doubt- 
ful whether Klemm is right in considering its occurrence in 
Australia as one of the results of intercourse with more ci- 
vilized islands. The natives cook in underground ovens on 
very distant parts of the coast ; sometimes hot stones are used, 
and sometimes not. 7 

When meat or vegetables are kept for many hours on a 
grating above a slow fire, the combination of roasting and 
smoking brings the food into a state in which it will keep for a 
long while, even in the tropics. Jean de Lery, in the account 
of his adventures among the Indians of Brazil, about 1557, de- 

1 Mouat, p. 308. 

2 Klemm, C. G., vol. iii. p. 222. Moffat, Missionary Labours, etc., in S. Africa ; 
London, 1842, p. 521. 

3 Ellis, Madagascar, vol. i. p. 72. 

4 Barker- Webb and Berthelot, vol. i. part i. p. 134. 

■ Maury, « La Terre & l'Homme ;' Paris, 1857, p. 572. 

6 Klemm, C. G., vol. ii. p. 26 ; vol. iv. p. 120. FitzRoy, in Tr. Eth. Soc, 
1861, p. 4. 

' Cook, 1st Voy. H., vol. iii. p. 233. Lang, p. 347. Grey, Journals, vol. i. 
p. 176 } vol. ii. p. 274. Klemm, C. G., vol. i. p. 307. Eyre, vol. ii. p. 289. 


scribes the wooden grating set up on four forked posts, u which 
in their language they call a boucan ;" on this they cooked 
food with a slow fire underneath, aud as they did not salt their 
meat this process served them as a means of keeping their 
game and fish. 1 To the word boucan belongs the term bou- 
canier, buccaneer, given to the French hunters of St. Domingo, 
from their preparing the flesh of the wild oxen and boars in this 
way, and applied less appropriately to the rovers of the Spanish 
Main. The process has been found elsewhere in South Ame- 
rica, 2 and perhaps as far North as Florida. 3 The Haitian name for 
a framework of sticks set upon posts, barbacoa, was adopted 
into Spanish and English; for instance, the Peruvian air- 
bridges, made over difficult ground by setting up on piles a 
wattled flooring covered with earth, are called barbacoas ; 4 and 
Dampier speaks of having u a Barbacue of split Bambooes to 
sleep on." 5 The American mode of roasting on such a frame- 
work is the origin of our term to barbecue, though its meaning 
has changed to that of roasting an animal whole. The art of 
bucaning or barbecuing, as practised by the Americans, is 
found in Africa, in Kamchatka, the Eastern Archipelago, and 
the Pelew Islands ; 6 and it merges into the very common pro- 
cess of smoking meat to make it keep. 

The mere inspection of these simple and wide-spread va- 
rieties of cooking gives the ethnographer very little evidence 
of the way in which they have been invented and spread over 
the world. But from the more complex art of Boiling there is 
something to be learnt. There are races of mankind, such as 
the Australians, the Fuegians and some other South American 
tribes, and the Bushmen, who do not seem to have known how 
to boil food when they first came into the view of Europe, 

1 Lery, Hist, d'un Voy., etc., 1600, p. 153. Southey, Brazil, vol. i. p. 216 ; 
vol. iii. pp. 337, 361. The word boucan seems connected with that now com- 
monly used in Brazil. " Mocaem, donde fisemos moquem, assar na labareda." 
Dias, Die. da Lingua Tupy. 

2 Wallace, p. 220. Humboldt and Bonpland, vol. ii. p. 556. Purchas, vol. v. 
p. 899. 3 Hakluyt, vol. iii. p. 307. 

4 Tschudi, ' Peru,' vol. ii. p. 202. 5 Dampier, vol. ii. part i. p. 90. 

6 Burton, ' Central Africa,' vol. ii. p. 282. Kracheninnikow, p. 46. Dampier, 
vol. iii. part ii. p. 24. Keate, p. 203. See Earl, 'Papuans,' p. 165. 


while the higher peoples of the world, and a great proportion 
of the lower ones, have had, so long as we know anything of 
them, vessels of pottery or metal which they pnt liquids into, 
and set over the fire to boil. Between these two conditions, 
however, there lies a process which has been superseded by 
the higher method within modern times over a large fraction 
of the earth's surface, and which there is some reason to be- 
lieve once extended much further. It is even likely that the 
art of Boiling, as commonly known to us, may have been de- 
veloped through this intermediate process, which I propose to 
call St one -Boiling. 

There is a North American tribe who received from their 
neighbours the Ojibwas, the name of Assinaboins, or u Stone- 
Boilers," from their mode of boiling their meat, of which Cat- 
lin gives a particular account. They dig a hole in the ground, 
take a piece of the animal's raw hide, and press it down with 
their hands close to the sides of the hole, which thus becomes 
a sort of pot or basin. This they fill with water, and they 
make a number of stones red-hot in a fire close by. The meat 
is put into the water, and the stones dropped in till the meat 
is boiled. Catlin describes the process as awkward and tedious, 
and says that since the Assinaboins had learnt from the Man- 
dans to make pottery, and had been supplied with vessels by 
the traders, they had entirely done away the custom, " except- 
ing at public festivals ; where they seem, like all others of the 
human family, to take pleasure in cherishing and perpetuating 
their ancient customs." 1 Elsewhere among the Sioux or Da- 
cotas, to whom the A.ssinaboins belong, the tradition has been 
preserved that their fathers used to cook the game in its own 
skin, which they set up on four sticks planted in the ground, 
and put water, meat, and hot stones into it. 2 The Sioux had the 
art of stone-boiling in common with the mass of the northern 
tribes. Father Charlevoix, writing above a century ago, speaks 
of the Indians of the North as using wooden kettles and boil- 
ing the water in them by throwing in red-hot stones, but even 
then iron pots were superseding both these vessels and the 
pottery of other tribes. 3 To specify more particularly, the 

1 Catlin, vol. i. p. 54. 3 Schoolcraft, part ii. p. 176. 3 Charlevoix, vol. vi. p. 47 


Micmacs and Souriquois, 1 the Blackfeet and the Crees, 2 are 
known to have been stone-boilers ; the Shoshonees or Snake 
Indians, like the far more northerly tribes of Slaves, Dog-Ribs, 
etc., 3 still make, or lately made, their pots of roots plaited or 
rather twined so closely that they will hold water, boiling their 
food in them with hot stones ; 4 while, west of the Rocky Moun- 
tains, the Indians used similar baskets to boil salmon, acorn 
porridge, and other food in, 5 or wooden vessels such as Captain 
Cook found at Nootka Sound, and La Perouse at Port Fran- 
cais. 6 Lastly, Sir Edward Belcher met with the practice of 
stone-boiling in 1826 among the Esquimaux of Icy Cape. 7 

So instantly is the art of stone -boiling supplanted by the 
kettles of the white trader, that, unless perhaps in the north- 
west, it might be hard to find it in existence now. But the 
state of things in North America, as known to us in earlier 
times, is somewhat as follows. The Mexicans, and the races 
between them and the Isthmus of Panama, were potters at the 
time of the Spanish discovery, and the art extended northward 
over an immense district, lying mostly between the Rocky 
Mountains and the Atlantic, and stretching up into Canada. 
In Eastern North America the first European discoverers found 
the art of earthenware -making in full operation, and forming a 
regular part of the women's work, and on this side of the con- 
tinent, as high at least as New England, the site of an Indian 
village may be traced, like so many of the ancient settlements 
in the Old World, by innumerable fragments of pottery. But 
the Stone-Boilers extended far south on the Pacific side, and 
also occupied what may be roughly called the northern half of 
North America. 

In that north-eastern corner of Asia which is of such extreme 
interest to the ethnographer, as preserving the lower human 
culture so near the high Asiatic civilization, and yet so little 
influenced by it, the art of Stone-boiling was found in full force. 

1 Schoolcraft, part i. p. 81. 2 Harmon, p. 323. 

3 Mackenzie, p. 37, and see p. 207. 4 Schoolcraft, part i. p. 211. 

5 Schoolcraft, part iii. pp. 107, 146. 

6 Cook, Third Voy., vol. ii. p. 321. Klemm, C. a., vol. ii. pp. 26, 69. 
\ Belcher, in Tr. Eth. Soc, vol. i. 1861, p. 133. 


The Kamchadals, like some American tribes, used hollowed 
wooden troughs for the purpose, and long resisted the use of 
the iron cooking pots of the Russians, considering that the food 
only kept its flavour properly when dressed in the old-fashioned 
way. 1 

Thus the existence of a great district of Stone-Boilers in 
Northern Asia and America is made out by direct evidence, 
but beside this we know of the practice in a southern district 
of the world. 

Captain Cook made a remark concerning the New Zealanders, 
that u having no vessel in which water can be boiled, their 
cooking consists wholly of baking and roasting. 2 The inference 
that people who have no vessel that will stand the fire must 
therefore be unable to boil food, may, for anything I know, be 
true when he makes it in Tierra del Fuego and in Australia, 3 
but in New Zealand it breaks down, for there is evidence that 
the Maoris knew the art of stone-boiling, though they used it 
but little. It is found among them under circumstances which 
give no ground for supposing that it was introduced after Cap- 
tain Cook's visit. The curious dried human heads of New 
Zealand, which excel any mummies that have ever been made 
in the preservation of the features of the dead, were first 
brought over to England by Cook's party. From a careful 
description of the process of preparing them, made since, it 
appears that one thing done to them is to throw them " into 
boiling water, into which red-hot stones are continually cast, 
to keep up the heat;" 4 and a remark made by another writer 
places the existence of stone-boiling as a native New Zealand 
art beyond question. " The New Zealanders, although destitute 
of vessels in which to boil water, had an ingenious way of heat- 
ing water to the boiling point, for the purpose of making shell- 
fish open. This was done by putting red-hot stones into 
wooden vessels full of water." 5 When, therefore, we find them 
boiling and eating the berries of the Laurus tavja, which are 
harmless when boiled, but poisonous in their raw state, it is 

1 Kracheninnikow, p. 30. Eramn, Reise, vol. iii. p. 423. 

2 Cook, First Voy. H., vol. iii. p. 55 ; also Third Voy., vol. i. p. 158. 

3 First Voy. H., vol. ii. p. 59 ; vol. iii. p. 233. 

4 Yate, 'New Zealand,' p. 132. ■ Thomson, « New Zealand,' vol. i. p. 160. 


not necessary to suppose this to have been found out since 
Captain Cook's time, as the boiling was probably done before 
with hot stones. 1 

In several other Polynesian islands, it appears from Cook's 
journals that stone-boiling was in ordinary use in cookery. 
The making of a native pudding in Tahiti is thus described. 
Bread-fruit, ripe plantains, taro, and palm or pandanus nuts, 
were rasped, scraped, or beaten up fine, and baked separately. 
A quantity of juice, expressed from cocoa-nut kernels, was put 
into a large tray or wooden vessel. The other articles, hot 
from the oven, were deposited in this vessel, and a few hot 
stones were also put in to make the contents simmer. Few 
puddings in England, he says, equal these. In the island of 
Anamooka, they brought him a mess of fish, soup, and yams 
stewed in cocoa-nut liquor, " probably in a wooden vessel, with 
hot stones." The practice seems to have existed in the Mar- 
quesas, and in Huaheine he describes the preparation of a dish 
of poi in a wooden trough w r ith hot stones. 2 What the Poly- 
nesian notion of a pudding is, as to size, may be gathered from 
the account of two missionaries who arrived at the island of 
Rurutu, and were received by a native who paddled out to 
meet them through a rough sea, in a wooden poi-dish, seven 
feet long and two and a half wide. 3 

I fear that the Tahitian recipe for making poi must spoil the 
good old story of Captain Wallis's tea-urn. A native who was 
breakfasting on board the Dolphin saw the tea-pot filled from 
the urn, and presently turned the cock again and put his hand 
underneath, with such effects as may be imagined. Captain 
Wallis, knowing that the natives had no earthen vessels, and 
that boiling in a pot over the fire was a novelty to them, and 
putting all these things together in telling the story, inter- 
preted the howls of the scalded native as he danced about the 
cabin, and the astonishment of the rest of the visitors, as 
proving that the Tahitians " having no vessel in which water 
could be subjected to the action of fire, .... had no more idea 

1 Yate, p. 43. 
. 2 Cook, Third Voy.. vol. ii. p. 49 j vol. i. p. 233. Second Voy., vol. i. p. 310. First 
Toy. H., vol. ii. p. 254. 3 Tyerman & Bennet, vol. i. p. 493. 


that it could be made hot, than that it could be made solid." 1 
No doubt the natives were surprised at hot water coming out 
of so unlikely a place, but the world seems to have accepted 
both the story and the inference without stopping to consider 
that hot water could not be much of a novelty among people 
to whom boiled pudding was an article of daily food. Captain 
Wallis's story (as is so commonly the case with accounts of 
savages) may be matched elsewhere. u And we went now/' 
says Kotzebue, in the account of his visit to the Radack islands, 
" to Rarick's dwelling, where the kettle had already been set 
on the fire, and the natives were assembled round it, looking 
at the boiling water, which seemed to them alive." Yet on 
another island of the same chain it is remarked that the mo- 
gomuh is made by drying the root of a plant, and pressing the 
meal into lumps ; when it is to be eaten, some of this is broken 
off, stirred with water in a cocoa-nut shell, and boiled till it 
swells up into a thick porridge ("und kocht ihn, bis er zu 
einem dicken Brei aufquillt/'), etc. 2 

Though the natives of the islands mentioned, and no doubt 
of many others, were still stone-boilers in Cook's time, pottery 
had already made its appearance in Polynesia, in districts so 
situated that the art may reasonably be supposed to have tra- 
velled from island to island from the Eastern Archipelago, 
where perhaps the Malays received it from Asia. By Cook 
and later explorers earthen vessels were found^ in the Pelew, 
Fiji, and Tonga groups, and in New Caledonia. 3 By this time 
it is likely that these and European vessels may have put an 
end to stone-boiling in Polynesia, so that its displacement by 
the introduction of pottery and metal will have taken place by 
the same combination of the influence of neighbouring tribes 
and of Europeans which have produced a similar effect in North 

This is what history tells us of the art, but there is some 
slight evidence which may, perhaps, lead us to infer that the 

1 Wallis, H., vol. i. pp. 246, 264. 2 Kotzebue, vol. ii. pp. 47, 65. 

3 Cook, Second Voy., vol. i. p. 214 ; vol. ii. p. 105. Third Voy., vol. i. p. 375. 
Klemm, C. Gk, vol. iv. p. 272. Williams, ' Fiji,' vol. i. p. 69. Turner, p. 424. 
Mariner, vol. ii. p. 272. Keate, p. 336. 


Stone-boilers once occupied districts in Europe. In spite of 
ages of contact with the Indo-European race, a branch of the 
great Tatar family, the Finns, have kept up into modern times 
a relic of the practice. Linnaeus, on his famous Lapland Tour, 
in 1732, recorded the fact that in East Bothland " The Finnish 
liquor called Lura is prepared like other beer, except not being 
boiled, instead of which red-hot stones are thrown into it." 1 
Moreover, the quantities of stones, evidently calcined, which 
are found buried in our own country, sometimes in the sites of 
ancient dwellings, give great probability to the inference which 
has been drawn from them, that they were used in cooking. 
It is true that their use may have been for baking in under- 
ground ovens, a practice found among races who are Stone- 
boilers, and others who are not. 

In Asia, I have met with no positive evidence of the ex- 
istence of stone-boiling beyond Kamchatka, but some ex- 
tremely rude boiling-vessels have been observed among Sibeiiin 
tribes, the use of which is either to be explained by the absence 
or scarcity of earthenware or metal pots, or by the keeping up 
of old habits belonging to a time of such absence or scarcity. 
The Dutch envoy, Ysbrants Ides, remarks of the Ostyaks, " I 
have also seen a copper kettle among them, and some other 
kettles of bark sewed together, in which they can boil food 
over the hot coals, but not in the flame of the fire." 2 Now 
just such bark-kettles as these have been seen in use among a 
North American tribe on the Unijah, or Peace River, near the 
Rocky Mountains. They were stone-boilers, using for this 
purpose the regular watape pots, or rather baskets, of woven 
roots of spruce fir, but they had also kettles, " made of spruce- 
bark, which they hang over the fire, but at such a distance as 
to receive the heat without being within reach of the blaze ; 
a very tedious operation." 3 In Siberia, among the Ostyaks, the 
practice has been observed of using the paunch of the slaugh- 
tered beast as a vessel to cook the blood in over the fire, 4 and 

1 Linnaeus, Tour, vol. ii. p. 231. 

2 E. Ysbrants Ides, ' Keize naar China ;' Amsterdam, 1710, p. 27. 

3 Mackenzie, p. 2C7. 

4 Erman (E. Tr.), toI. ii. pp. 456, 467. 


tlie same thing has been noticed among the Reindeer Koriaks. 1 
Thus the story told by Herodotus of the Scythians, who, when 
they had not a suitable cauldron, used to boil the flesh of the 
sacrificed beast in its own paunch, 2 seems to give a glimpse of 
a state of things in the centre of Asia, resembling that which 
has continued into modern times in the remote North-East . It 
is thus not unlikely that the use of stone-boiling, to meet the 
want of suitable vessels for direct boiling over the fire, may 
once have had a range in Asia far beyond the Kamchatkan 
promontory. 3 

It may be that the more convenient boiliug, in vessels set 
over the fire, was generally preceded in the world by the 
clumsier stone-boiling, of which the history, so far as I have 
been able to make it out from evidence within my reach, has 
thus been sketched. Of vessels used for the higher kind 
of boiling, as commonly known to us, something may now be 

It is not absolutely necessary that vessels of earthenware, 
metal, etc., should be used for this purpose. Potstone, lapis 
ollaris, has been used by the Esquimaux, and by various Old 
World peoples, to make vessels which will stand the fire. 4 
The Asiatic paunch-kettles have just been mentioned, and 
kettles of skins have been described among the Esquimaux, 5 
and even among the inhabitants of the Hebrides, of whose way 
of life George Buchanan gives the following curious account : 
— " In food, clothing, and all domestic matters, they use the 
ancient parsimony. Their meat is supplied by hunting and 
fishing. The flesh they boil with water in the paunch or hide 
of the slaughtered beast ; out hunting they sometimes eat it 
raw, when the blood has been pressed out. For drink they 
have the broth of the meat. Whey that has been kept for 
years, they also drink greedily at their feasts. This kind of 

1 Kracheninnikow, p. 142. 

2 Herod., iv. 61. 

3 The frequent use of wicker baskets for holding liquids, in Africa, may have a 
bearing on the history of stone-boiling. See mention of hot stones for melting or 
boiling fat, in Bleek, * Reynard in Africa,' pp. 8-10. 

4 Cranz, p. 73 ; Linnseus, vol. i. p. 356 ; Klemm, C. Gt., vol. ii. p. 266, etc. etc. 
• Martin Frobisher, in ' Hakluyt,' vol. iii. pp. 66, 95. 


liquor they call bland." 1 Beside these animal materials, parts 
of several plants will answer the purpose, as the bark used for 
kettles in Asia and America, the spathes of palms, in which 
food is often boiled in South America, 2 the split bamboos in 
which the Dayaks, the Sumatrans, and the Stiens of Cambodia, 
boil their rice, and cocoa-nut shells, as just mentioned in the 
Radack group j Captain Cook saw a cocoa-nut shell used in 
Tahiti, to dry up the blood of a native dog in, over the fire. 3 
These facts should be borne in mind in considering the follow- 
ing theory of the Origin of the Art of Pottery. 

It was, I believe, Goguet who first propounded, in the last 
century, the notion that the way in which pottery came to be 
made, was that people daubed such combustible vessels as 
these with clay, to protect them from the fire, till they found 
that the clay alone would answer the purpose, and thus the art 
of pottery came into the world. The idea was not a mere 
effort of his imagination, for he had met with a description of 
the plastering of wooden vessels with clay in the Southern 
Hemisphere. It is related that a certain Captain Gonneville 
sailed from Honfleur in 1503, doubled the Cape of Good Hope, 
and came to the Southern Indies. There he found a gentle 
and joyous people, living by hunting and fishing, and a little 
agriculture, and he speaks of cloaks of mats and skins, feather 
work, bows and arrows, beds of mats, villages of thirty to 
eighty huts of stakes and wattles, etc., " and their household 
utensils of wood, even their boiling-pots, but plastered with a 
kind of clay, a good finger thick, which prevents the fire from 
burning them." 4 What to make of this curious story I do not 
know, but as to the theory of the origin of pottery which Go- 
guet founded upon it, a quantity of evidence has made its ap- 
pearance since his time, which all goes in its favour. 

1 ' Kerum Scoticarum Historia, auctore Georgio Buchanano Scoto ;' (ad ex.) 
Edinburgh, 1528, p. 7. 

2 Spix and Martius, vol. ii. p. 688. Wallace, p. 508. 

3 St. John, vol. i. p. 137. Marsden, p. 60. Mouhot, vol. ii. p. 245. Cook, 
Third Voy., vol. ii. p. 35. See Coleman, p. 318 ; Mariner, vol. ii. p. 272. 

4 Goguet, vol. i. p. 77. ' Memoires touchant l'Etablissement d'une Mission 
Chrestienne dans le troisieme monde, autrement appelle la Terre Australe,' etc. ; 
Paris, 1663, pp. 10-16. 


The comparison of two accounts of vessels found, one among 
the Esquimaux, the other among their neighbours the Una- 
lashkans (whose language contains proofs of intimate contact 
with them 1 ), may serve to give an idea of the way in which 
clay may come to supersede less convenient materials, and a 
gradual approach be made towards the potter's art. When 
James Hall was in Greenland, in 1605, he found the natives 
boiling food over their lamps, in vessels with stone bottoms, 
and sides of whale's fins. 2 In Unalashka, Captain Cook found 
that some of the natives had got brass kettles from the Rus- 
sians, but those who had not, made their own " of a flat stone, 
with sides of clay, not unlike a standing pye." 3 He thought it 
likely that they had learnt to boil from the Russians, but the 
Russians could hardly have taught them to make such vessels 
as these, and the appearance of a kettle with a stone bottom 
(no doubt potstone), and sides of another material, at the two 
opposite sides of America, gives ground for supposing it to 
have been in common use in high latitudes. 

From the examination of an earthen vessel from the Fiji 
Islands, Dr. D. S. Price considers that it was very likely made 
by moulding clay on the outside of the shell or rind of some 
fruit. The vessel in question is made watertight after the South 
American manner by a varnish of resin. The evident and fre- 
quent adoption of gourd-shapes in the earthenware of distant 
parts of the world does not prove much, but as far as it goes 
it tells in favour of the opinion that such gourd-like vessels 
may be the successors of real gourds, made into pottery by 
a plastering of clay. Some details given in 1841 by Squier 
and Davis, in their account of the monuments in the Mississippi 
Valley, are much more to the purpose. " In some of the Sou- 
thern States, it is said, the kilns, in which the ancient pottery 
was baked, are now occasionally to be met with. Some are 
represented still to contain the ware, partially burned, and re- 
taining the rinds of the gourds, etc., over which they were 
modelled, and which had not been entirely removed by the 

1 Buschmarm, Azt. Spr., p. 702. 2 Purchas, vol. iii. p. 817. 

3 Cook, Third Voy., vol. ii. p. 510. 


fire." " Among the Indians along the Gulf, a greater degree 
of skill was displayed than with those on the upper waters of 
the Mississippi and on the lakes. Their vessels were generally- 
larger and more symmetrical, and of a superior finish. They 
moulded them over gourds and other models and baked them 
in ovens. In the construction of those of large size, it was 
customary to model them in baskets of willow or splints, which, 
at the proper period, were burned off, leaving the vessel per- 
fect in form, and retaining the somewhat ornamental markings 
of their moulds. Some of those found on the Ohio seem to 
have been modelled in bags or nettings of coarse thread or 
twisted bark. These practices are still retained by some of the 
remote western tribes. Of this description of pottery many 
specimens are found with the recent deposits in the mounds." 1 
Prince Maximilian of Wied makes the following remark on 
some earthen vessels found in Indian mounds near Harmony, 
on the Wabash Eiver : — " They were made of a sort of grey 
clay, marked outside with rings, and seemed to have been 
moulded in a cloth or basket, being marked with impressions 
or figures of this kind." 2 

It has been thought, too, that the early pottery of Europe 
retains in its ornamentation traces of having once passed 
through a stage in which the clay was surrounded by basket- 
work or netting, either as a backing to support the finished 
vessel, or as a mould to form it in. Dr. Klemm advanced this 
view twenty years ago. "The imitation (of natural vessels) in 
clay presupposes numerous trials. In the Friendly Islands, we 
find vessels which are still in an early stage ; they are made of 
clay, slightly burnt, and enclosed in plaited work; so also the 
oldest German vessels seem to have been, for we observe on 
those which remain an ornamentation in which plaiting is imi- 
tated by incised lines. What was no longer wanted as a ne- 
cessity was kept up as an ornament." 3 

Dr. Daniel Wilson made a similar remark, some years later, 
on early British urns which, he says, " may have been strength- 

1 Squier & Davis, pp. 195, 187. 

2 Pr. Max. Voyage, vol. i. p. 192. Klemm, C. GL, vol. ii. p. 66. 

3 Klemm, C. a., vol. i. p. 188. 


ened by being surrounded with a platting of cords or rushes. 
... It is certain that very many of the indented patterns on 
British pottery have been produced by the impress of twisted 
cords on the wet clay, — the intentional imitation, it may be, of 
undesigned indentations originally made by the platted net- 
work on ruder urns," etc. 1 Mr. G. J. French mentions experi- 
ments made by him in support of his views on the derivation 
of the interlaced or guilloche ornaments on early Scottish 
crosses, etc., fro.n imitation of earlier structures of wicker- 
work. He coated baskets with clay, and found the wicker pat- 
terns came out on all, but better on the sun-dried ones than 
in those burnt in the kiln, in which the markings were injured 
by the shrinkage, and he even seems to think that some an- 
cient urns still preserved were actually moulded in this way, 
judging from the lip being marked as if the wicker-work had 
been turned in over the clay coating inside. 2 

Taken all together, the evidence of so many imperfect and 
seemingly transitional forms of pottery makes it probable that 
it was through such stages that the art grew up into the more 
perfect form in which we usually find it, and in which it has 
come to be clearly understood that clay, alone or with some 
mixture of sand or such matters to prevent cracking, is capa- 
ble of being used without any extraneous support. 

Such is the evidence by means of which I have attempted to 
trace the progress of mankind in three important arts, whose 
early history lies for the most part out of the range of direct 
record. Its examination brings into view a gradual improve- 
ment in methods of producing fire ; the supplanting of a rude 
means of boiling food by a higher one ; and a progress from 
the vessels of gourds, bark, or shell of the lower races to the 
pottery and metal of the higher. On the whole, progress in 
these useful arts appears to be the rule, and whether its steps 
be slow or rapid, a step once made does not seem often to be 



Wilson, Archaeology, etc., of Scotland, p. 289. 
2 G. J. French, An Attempt, etc. ; Manchester (printed), 1858. 




It has long been an accepted doctrine that among the similar 
customs found prevailing in distant countries, there are some 
which are evidence of worth to the ethnologist. But in deal- 
ing with these things he has to answer, time after time, a new 
form of the hard question that stands in his way in so many 
departments of his work. He must have derived from observa- 
tion of many cases a general notion of what Man does and 
does not do, before he can say of any particular custom which 
he finds in two distant places, either that it is likely that a 
similar state of things may have produced it more than once, 
or that it is unlikely — that it is even so unlikely as to approach 
the limit of impossibility, that such a thing should have grown 
up independently in the two, or three, or twenty places where 
he finds it. In the first case it is worth little or nothing to 
him as evidence bearing on the early history of mankind, but 
in the latter it goes with more or less force to prove that the 
people who possess it are allied by blood, or have been in con- 
tact, or have been influenced indirectly one from the other or 
both from a common source, or that some combination of these 
things has happened ; in a word, that there has been historical 
connexion between them. 

I give some selected cases of the Argument from Similar 
Customs, both where it seems sound and where it seems un- 
sound, before proceeding to the main object of this chapter, 
which is to select and bring into view, from the enormous mass 



of raw material that lies before the student, four groups of 
world-wide customs which seem to have their roots deep in the 
early history of mankind. 

It is a remarkable thing to find in Africa the practice which 
we associate exclusively with Siam and the neighbouring coun- 
tries, of paying divine honours to the pale-coloured, or as it 
is called, the " white M elephant. A native of Enarea (in East 
Africa, south of Abyssinia) told Dr. Krapf that white ele- 
phants, whose hide was like the skin of a leper, were found in 
his country, but such an animal must not be killed, for it is 
considered an Adbar or protector of man and has religious 
honours paid to it, and any one who killed it would be put to 
death. 1 There may be a historical connexion between the ve- 
neration of the white elephant in Asia and Africa, but the 
habit of man to regard unusual animals, or plants, or stones, 
with superstitious feelings of reverence or horror is so general, 
that no prudent ethnologist would base an argument upon it, 
and still less when he finds that in Africa the albino buffalo 
shares the sanctity of the elephant. 

On the other hand, a custom prevalent in two districts com- 
paratively near these may be quoted as an example of sound 
evidence of the kind in question. In his account of the Sulu 
Islands, north-east of Borneo, Mr. Spenser St. John speaks of 
a superstition in those countries, that if gold or pearls are put 
in a packet by themselves they will decrease and disappear, 
but if a few grains of rice are added, they will keep. Pearls 
they believe will actually increase by this, and the natives al- 
ways put grains of rice in the packets both of gold and precious 
stones. 2 Now Dr. Livingstone mentions the same thing at the 
gold diggings of Manica in East Africa, south of the Zambesi, 
where the natives " bring the dust in quills, and even put in a 
few seeds of a certain plant as a charm to prevent their losing 
any of it in the way." 3 The custom was probably transmitted 
through the Mahometans, who form a known channel of con- 
nexion between Africa and the Malay Islands, but its very ex- 
istence alone would prove that there must have been a connect- 
ing link somewhere. 

1 Krapf, p. 67. 2 St. John, vol. ii. p. 235. 3 Livingstone, p. 638. 


Intercourse between Asia and America in early times is not 
brought to our knowledge by the direct historical information 
by which, for instance, distant parts of Asia and Africa are 
brought into contact; still there is indirect evidence tending 
to prove Asiatic influence far in the interior of North America, 
and the following may, perhaps, be held in some degree to 
confirm and supplement it. Johannes de Piano Carpini, de- 
scribing in 1246 the manners and customs of the Tatars, says 
that one of their superstitious traditions concerns " sticking a 
knife into the fire, or in any way touching the fire with a knife, 
or even taking meat out of the kettle with a knife, or cutting 
near the fire with an axe ; for they believe that so the head of 
the fire would be cut off." * The prohibition was no doubt con- 
nected with the Asiatic fire-worship, and it seems to have long 
been known in Europe, for it stands among the Pythagorean 
maxims, " irvp fia\aipa p,rj cncaXeveiv" " not to stir the fire 
with a sword," or, as it is given elsewhere, <ri87Jp(p, "with 
an iron." 2 In the far north-east of Asia it may be found in 
the remarkable catalogue of ceremonial sins of the Kamchadals, 
among whom " it is a sin to take up a burning ember with the 
knife-point, and light tobacco, but it must be taken hold of 
with the bare hands." 3 How is it possible to separate from 
these the following statement, taken out of a list of supersti- 
tions of the Sioux Indians of North America ? ( ' They must 
not stick an awl or needle into ... a stick of wood on the 
fire. No person must chop on it with an axe or knife, 6r 
stick an awl into it. . . . Neither are they allowed to take a coal 
from the fire with a knife, or any other sharp instrument." 4 

The first of the four groups of customs, selected as examples 
of an argument taking a yet wider range, is based upon the 
idea that disease is commonly caused by bits of wood, stone, 
hair, or other foreign substances, having got inside the body of 
the patient. Accordingly, the malady is to be cured by the 
medicine-man extracting the hurtful things, usually by sucking 

1 Vincentius Beluacensis, ' Speculum Historiale,' 14*73, book xxxii. c. vii. 

2 Diog. Laert. viii. 1, 17. Plut. ' De Educatione Puerorum,' xvii. 

3 G-. W. Steller, ' Beschreibung vondemLande Kanitschatka ;' Frankfort, 1774, 
p. 274. 4 Schoolcraft, part iii. p. 230. 



the affected part till they come out. Mr. Backhouse describes 
the proceedings of a native doctress in South Africa, which will 
serve as a typical case. A man was taken ill with a pain in his 
side, and a Fingo witch was sent for. As she was quite naked, 
except a rope round her waist, the missionary who lived in the 
place declined to assist at the ceremony himself, but sent his 
wife. The doctress sucked at the man's side, and produced 
some grains of Indian corn, which she said she had drawn from 
inside him, and which had caused the disease. The missionary's 
wife looked in her mouth, and there was nothing there ; but 
when she sucked again and again, there came more grains of 
corn. At last a piece of tobacco-leaf made its appearance with 
the corn, and showed how the trick was done. The woman 
swallowed the tobacco first to produce nausea, and then a 
quantity of Indian corn, and by the help of the rope round her 
waist, she was able so to control her stomach as only to pro- 
duce a few grains at a time. 1 In North and South America, 
in Borneo, and in Australia, the same cure is part of the doc- 
tor's work, with the difference only that bones, bits of wood, 
stones, lizards, fragments of knife-blades, balls of hair, and 
other miscellaneous articles are produced, and that the tricks 
by which he keeps up the pretence of sucking them out are 
perhaps seldom so clever as the African one. 2 In Australia the 
business is profitably worked by one sorcerer charming bits of 
quartz into the victim's body, so that another has to be sent for 
t6 get them out. 3 It has been already mentioned that in the 
North of Ireland the wizards still extract elf-bolts, that is, stone 
arrow-heads, from the bodies of bewitched cattle.* Southey, 
who knew a great deal about savages, goes so far as to say of 
this cure by sucking out extraneous objects, as practised by 
the native sorcerers of Brazil, that " their mode of quackery 
was that which is common to all savage conjurors ;" 6 at any 
rate, its similarity in so many and distant regions is highly re- 

1 Backhouse, ' Africa,' p. 284. 

2 Long's Exp., vol. i. p. 261. Klemm, C. G., vol. ii. pp. 169, 335. St. John, 
vol. i. pp. 62, 201. Lang, « Queensland,' p. 342. Eyre, vol. ii. p. 360. 

3 Grey, Journals, vol. ii. p. 337. 

* Wilde, Cat. R. I. A., p. 19. 5 Southey, ■ Brazil,' vol. i. p. 238. 


markable. It is to be noticed that, in this special imposture, 
we have not only the belief that a disease is caused by some 
extraneous substance inside the body, but we have also this 
belief turned to account in remote parts of the world by the 
same knavish trick. It is hard even to see a reason for the be- 
lief, and much harder to imagine the sucking-cure to have grown 
independently out of it in several places. 

In the civilized world, the prohibition from marrying kindred 
has usually stopped short of forbidding the marriage of cousins 
german. It is true that the Roman Ecclesiastical Law is, at 
least in theory, very different from this. Hallam says, " Gre- 
gory I. pronounces matrimony to be unlawful as far as the 
seventh degree, and even, if I understand his meaning, as 
long as any relationship could be traced, which seems to have 
been the maxim of strict theologians, though not absolutely 
enforced." 1 But this disability may be reduced by the dis- 
pensing power to the ordinary limits; and in practice the 
Society of Friends go farther than the Canon Law, for they 
really prohibit the marriage of first cousins. If, however, we 
examine the law of marriage among certain of the middle and 
lower races scattered far and wide over the world, a variety of 
such prohibitions will be found, which overstep the practice, 
and sometimes even approach the theory of the Roman Church. 
The matter belongs properly to that interesting, but difficult 
and almost unworked subject, the Comparative Jurisprudence 
of the lower races, and no one not versed in Civil Law could do 
it justice ; but it may be possible for me to give a rough idea of 
its various modifications, as found among races widely separated 
from one another in place, and, so far as we know, in history. 

In India, it is unlawful for a Brahman to marry a wife whose 
clan-name or gotra (literally, " cow-stall ") is the same as his 
own, a prohibition which bars marriage among relatives in the 
male line indefinitely. This law appears in the Code of Manu 
as applying to the three first castes, and connexions on the fe- 
male side are also forbidden to marry within certain wide limits. 
The Abbe Dubois, nevertheless, noticed among the Hindoos a 
tendency to form marriages between families already connected 

1 Hallam, • Middle Ages,' ch. vii. part ii. See Du Cange, s. v. " generatio." 


by blood ; but inasmuch as, according to his account, relatives 
in the male line go on calling one another brother and sister, 
and do not marry, as far as relationship can be traced, were it 
to the tenth generation, and the same in the female line, the 
very natural wish to draw closer the family tie can only be ac- 
complished by crossing the male and female line, the brother's 
child marrying the sister's, and so on. 1 

The Chinese people is divided into a number of clans, each 
distinguished by a name, which is borne by all its members, 
and corresponds to a surname, or better to a clan-name, among 
ourselves, for the wife adopts her husband's, and the sons and 
daughters inherit it. The number of these clan-names is li - 
mited ; Davis thinks there are not much above a hundred, but 
other writers talk of three hundred, and even of a thousand. 
Now, the Chinese law is that a man may not marry a woman 
of his own surname, so that relationship by the male side, how- 
ever distant, is an absolute bar to marriage. This stringent 
prohibition of marriage between descendants of the male 
branch would seem to be very old, for the Chinese refer its 
origin to the mythic times of the Emperor Fu-hi, whose reign 
is placed before the Hea dynasty, which began, according to 
Chinese annals, in 2207 B.C. Fu-hi, it is related, divided the 
people into 100 clans, giving each a name, " and did not allow 
a man to marry a woman of the same name, whether a relative 
or not, a law which is still actually in force." There appear to 
be also prohibitions applying within a narrower range to rela- 
tion on the female side, and to certain kinds of affinity. Du 
Halde says, that " persons who are of the same family, or who 
bear the same name, however distant their degree of affinity 
may be, cannot marry together. Thus, the laws do not allow 
two brothers to marry two sisters, nor a widower to marry his 
son to the daughter of a widow whom he marries." 2 

In Siam, the seventh degree of blood-affinity is the limit 
within which marriage is prohibited, with the exception that 

1 Dubois, vol. i. p. 10. Manu, iii. 5. See Coleman, p. 291. 

3 Davis, vol. i. p. 264. Purchas, vol. iii. pp. 367, 394. Goguet, vol. iii. p. 328. 
Du Halde, Descr. de la Chine ; The Hague, 1736, vol. ii. p. 145. De Mailla, 
vol. i. p. 6. 


the king may marry his sister, as among the Incas, the Lagide 
dynasty, etc., and even his daughter. 1 Among the Land 
Dayaks of Borneo the marriage of first cousins is said to be 
prohibited, and a fine of a jar (which represents a considerable 
value) imposed on second cousins who marry. 2 In Sumatra, 
Marsden says that first cousins, the children of two brothers, 
may not marry, while the sister's son may marry the bro* 
ther's daughter, but not vice versa? In the same island, it 
is stated, upon the authority of Sir Stamford Raffles, that the 
Battas hold intermarriage in the same tribe to be a heinous 
crime, and that they punish the delinquents after their ordi- 
nary manner by cutting them up alive, and eating them grilled 
or raw with salt and red pepper. It is stated distinctly that 
their reason for considering such marriages as criminal is that 
the man and woman had ancestors in common. 4 

Among the Tatar race in Asia and Europe, similar restric- 
tions are to be found. The Ostyaks hold it a sin for two per- 
sons of the same family name to marry, so that a man must not 
take a wife of his own tribe. 5 The Tunguz do not marry se- 
cond cousins j the Samoieds " avoid all degrees of consanguinity 
in marrying to such a degree, that a man never marries a girl 
descended from the same family with himself, however distant 
the affinity;" and the Lapps have a similar custom. 6 Even 
among the Semitic race, who, generally speaking, rival the 
Caribs in the practice of marrying " in and in," something of 
the kind is found; the tribe Rebua always marries into the 
tribe Modjar, and vice versa. 7 

In Africa, the marriage of cousins is looked upon as illegal 
in some tribes, and the practice of a man not marrying in his 
own clan is found in various places. 8 Munzinger, the Swiss 

1 Bowring, vol. i. p. 185. s St. John, vol. i. p. 198. 3 Marsden, p. 228. 
4 Letter of Raffles to Marsden, in Dr. W. Cooke Taylor, The Nat. Hist of So- 
ciety, vol. i. pp. 122-6. 
6 Bastian, vol. iii. p. 299. 

6 Klemm, C. G., vol. iii. p. 68. Ace. of Samoiedia, in Pinkerton, vol. ii. p. 532. 
Richardson, ■ Polar Regions,' p. 345. 

7 Bastian, I. c. 

8 Casalis, p. 191. Backhouse, 'Africa,' p. 182. Burton in Tr. Eth. Soc, 
1861, p. 321. Du Chaillu, p. 388. 


traveller in East Africa, suggests Christian influence as having 
operated in this direction. The Beni Amer, north of Abyssinia, 
follow the rules of Islam, cousins often marrying ; " the Beit 
Bidel and the Allabje, on the other hand, mindful of their 
Christian origin, observe blood-relationship to seven degrees." 1 
In Madagascar, Ellis says that "certain ranks are not per- 
mitted under any circumstances to intermarry, and affinity to 
the sixth generation also forbids intermarriage, yet the prin- 
cipal restrictions against intermarriages respect descendants 
on the female side. Collateral branches on the male side are 
permitted in most cases to intermarry, on the observance of a 
slight but prescribed ceremony, which is supposed to remove 
the impediment or disqualification arising out of consanguinity." 2 
Among the natives of Australia, prohibitory marriage laws 
have been found, but they are very far from being uniform, and 
may sometimes have been misunderstood. Sir George Grey's 
account is that the Australians, so far as he is acquainted with 
them, are divided into great clans, and use the clan-name as a 
sort of surname beside the individual name. Children take the 
family name of the mother, and a man cannot marry a woman 
of his own name, so that here it would seem that only relation- 
ship by the female side is taken into account. One effect of 
the division of clans in this way, is that the children of the 
same father by different wives, having different names, may be 
obliged to take opposite sides in a quarrel. 3 Mr. Eyre's expe- 
rience in South Australia does not, however, correspond with 
Sir George Grey's in the West and North- West. 4 Collins be- 
lieved the custom to be for a native to steal a wife from a tribe 
at enmity with his own, and to drag her, stunned with blows, 
home through the woods ; her relations not avenging the 
affront, but taking an opportunity of retaliating in kind. It 
appears from Kind's account, that in some districts the po- 
pulation is divided into two clans, and a man of one clan can 
only marry a woman of another. 5 In East Australia, Lang de- 
scribes a curious and complex system. Through a large ex- 

1 Munzinger, p. 319. 3 Ellis, ■ Madagascar,' vol. i. p. 164. 

3 Grey, ■ Journals,' vol. ii. pp. 225-30. 4 Eyre, vol. ii. p. 330. 

* Collins, vol. i. p. 559. Klemm C. G., vol. i. pp. 288, 319. 


tent of the interior, among tribes speaking different dialects, 
there are four names for men, and four for women, Ippai and 
Ippata, Kubbi and Kapota, Kumbo and Buta, Murri and Mata. 
If we call these four sets A, B, C, D, then the rule is that a 
man or woman of the tribe A must marry into B, and a mem- 
ber of the tribe C into D, and vice versa, but the child whose 
father is A, takes the name of D, and so on ; A's = D ; B's= C ; 
C's=B ; D's=A; and the mother's name answers equally well 
to give the name of the child, if the mother is of the tribe B, 
her child will belong to the tribe D, and so on. 

This ingenious arrangement, it will be seen, has much the 
same effect as the Hindoo regulations in preventing inter- 
marriage in the male or female line, but allowing the male and 
female line to cross ; the children of two brothers or two sis- 
ters cannot marry, but the brother's child may marry the 
sister's. Lang, however, mentions a further regulation, pro- 
bably made to meet some incidental circumstances, as, so far 
as it goes, it stultifies the whole system ; A may also marry 
into his or her own tribe, and the children take the name of C. 1 

In America, the custom of marrying out of the clan is fre- 
quent and well marked. More than twenty years ago, Sir 
George Grey called attention to the division of the Australians 
into families, each distinguished by the name of some animal 
or vegetable, which served as their crest or kohong ; the prac- 
tice of reckoning clanship from the mother ; and the prohibition 
of marriage within the clan, as all bearing a striking resem- 
blance to similar usages found among the natives of North 
America. The Indian tribes are usually divided into clans, each 
distinguished by a totem (Algonquin, do-daim, that is " town- 
mark"), which is commonly some animal, as a bear, wolf, deer, 
etc., and may be compared on the one hand to a crest, and on 
the other to a surname. The totem appears to be held as 
proof of descent from a common ancestor, and therefore the 
prohibition from marriage of two persons of the same totem 
must act as a bar on the side the totem descends on, which 
is generally, if not always, on the female side. Such a prohi- 
bition is often mentioned by writers on the North American 

1 Lang, p. 367. 


Indians. 1 Morgan's account of the Iroquois' rules is particu-i 
larly remarkable. The father and child can never be of the 
same clan, descent going in all cases by the female line* Each 
nation had eight tribes, in two sets of four each. 

1, Wolf, Bear, Beaver, Turtle. 

2. Deer, Snipe, Heron, Hawk. 
Originally a Wolf might not marry a Bear, Beaver, or Turtle, 

reckoning himself their brother, but he might marry into the 
second set, Deer, etc., whom he considered his cousins, and so 
on with the rest. But in later times a man is allowed to marry 
into any tribe but his own. 2 A recent account from North- 
West America describes the custom among the Indians of 
Nootka Sound ; " a Whale, therefore, may not marry a Whale, 
nor a Frog a Frog. A child, again, always takes the crest of 
the mother, so that if the mother be a Wolf, all her children will 
be Wolves. As a rule, also, descent is traced from the mother, 
not from the father." 3 

The analogy of the North American Indian custom is there- 
fore with that of the Australians in making clanship on the 
female side a bar to marriage, but if we go down further south 
into Central America, the reverse custom, as in China, makes 
its appearance. Diego de Landa says of the people of Yucatan, 
that no one took a wife of his name, on the father's side, for 
this was a very vile thing among them ; but they might marry 
cousins german on the mother's side. 4 Further south, below 
the Isthmus, both the clanship and the prohibition reappear on 
the female side. Bernau says that among the Arrawaks of 
British Guiana, " Caste is derived from the mother, and chil- 
dren are allowed to marry into their father's family, but not 
into that of their mother." 5 Lastly, Father Martin Dobriz- 
hoffer says that the Guaranis avoided, as highly criminal, mar- 
riage with the most distant relatives, and, speaking of the 
Abipones, he makes the following statement : — " Though the 
paternal indulgence of the Eoman Pontiffs makes the first and 

1 Grey, I. c. Schoolcraft, part i. p. 52 ; part ii. p. 49. Loskiel, p. 72. Talbot, 
Disc, of Lederer, p. 4. 

2 L. H. Morgan, p. 79. 3 Mayne, Brit. Columbia, p. 257. 
4 Landa, p. 140. 5 Bernau, p. 29. 


second degrees of relationship alone a bar to the marriage of 
the Indians, yet the Abipones, instructed by nature and the 
example of their ancestors, abhor the very thought of marrying 
any one related to them by the most distant tie of relationship. 
Long experience has convinced me, that the respect to con- 
sanguinity, by which they are deterred from marrying into 
their own families, is implanted by nature in the minds of most 
of the people of Paraguay," etc. 1 

It is likely that experience of the evils of marrying near re- 
latives may be the main ground of this series of restrictions in 
different parts of the world. Professor Lazarus, whose opinion 
I asked about the matter, expressed this view, with the just 
remarks that the observation and reasoning of savages are 
often very accurate in practical matters requiring no instrument 
for their observation, and that old people with a personal ex- 
perience ranging through five or six generations would have a 
fair ground for judging on such a question. If this physiolo- 
gical objection, often exaggerated beyond reasonable limits, be 
the principal basis of the series of restrictions, their various, 
anomalous, and inconsistent forms may be connected with in- 
terfering causes, and this one in particular, that the especial 
means of tracing kindred is by a system of surnames, clan- 
names, totems, etc. But this system is necessarily one-sided, 
and though it will keep up the record of descent either on the 
male or female side perfectly and for ever, it cannot record 
both at once. In practice, the races of the world who keep 
such a record at all have had to elect which of the two lines, 
male or female, they will keep up by the family name or sign, 
while the other line, having no such easy means of record, is 
more or less neglected, and soon falls out of sight. Under 
these circumstances, it would be quite natural that the sign 
should come to be considered rather than the reality, the name 
rather than the relationship it records, and that a series of one- 
sided restrictions should come into force, now bearing upon the 
male side rather than the female, and now upon the female side 
rather than the male, roughly matching the one-sided way in 

1 Dobrizhoffer, vol. i. p. 63 ; vol. ii. p. 212. See Grumilla, Hist* Nat., etc., de 
l'Orenoque ; Avignon, 1758, vol. iii. p. 269. 


which the record of kindred is kept up. In any full discus- 
sion, other points would have to be considered, such as the 
wish to bind different tribes together in friendship by inter- 
marriage, and the opinion that a wife is a slave to be stolen 
from the stranger, not taken from a man's own people. There 
is a good deal in this last consideration, as we may see by the 
practice of the Spartan marriage, in which, though the bride's 
guardians had really sanctioned the union, the pretence of 
carrying her off by force was kept up as a time-honoured cere- 
mony. The Spartan marriage is no isolated custom, it is to be 
found among the Circassians, 1 and in South America. 2 Wil- 
liams says that on the large islands of the Fiji group, the 
custom is often found of seizing upon a woman by apparent or 
actual force, in order to make her a wife. If she does not ap- 
prove the proceeding, she runs off when she reaches the man's 
house, but if she is satisfied, she stays. 3 In these cases the 
abduction is a mere pretence, but it is kept up seemingly as a 
relic of a ruder time when, as among the modern Australians, 
it was done by no means as a matter of form, but in grim 

Lastly, restrictions from marriage are occasionally found 
applied to cases where the relationship is more or less imagi- 
nary, as in ancient Rome, where adoption had in some measure 
the effect of consanguinity in barring marriage ; or among the 
Moslems, where relation to a foster-family operates more fully 
in the same way ; or in the Roman Church, where sponsorship 
creates a restriction from marriage, even among the co-spon- 
sors, which it requires a dispensation to remove. Again, two 
members of a Circassian brotherhood, though no relationship 
is to be traced between them, may not marry, 4 and even among 
the savage Tupinambas of Brazil, two men who adopted one 
another as brothers were prohibited from marrying each other's 
sisters and daughters. 5 But such practices as these may rea- 
sonably be set down as mere consequences of the transfer 
both of the rights and the obligations of consanguinity to 

1 Klemm, C. G., vol. iv. p. 26. 2 Wallace, p. 497. See Perty, p. 270. 
3 Williams, vol. i. p. 174. * Klemm, C. Gh, vol. iv. p. 24. 

5 Southey, vol. i. p. 250. 


other kinds of connexion, and so do not touch the general 

To consider now the third group of customs, it is natural 
enough that there should be found even among savage tribes 
rules concerning respect, authority, precedence, and so forth, 
between fathers- and mothers-in-law and their sons- and 
daughters-in-law. But with these there are found, in the most 
distant regions of the world, regulations which to a great ex- 
tent coincide, but which lie so far out of the ordinary course of 
social life as understood by the civilized world, that it is hard 
even to guess what state of things can have brought them into 

Among the Arawaks of South America, it was not lawful for 
the son-in-law to see the face of his mother-in-law. If they 
lived in the same house, a partition must be set up between 
them. If they went in the same boat, she had to get in first, 
so as to keep her back turned towards him. Among the Ca- 
ribs, Rochefort says, " all the women talk with whom they will, 
but the husband dares not converse with his wife's relatives, 
except on extraordinary occasions." 1 Further north, in the 
account of the Floridan expedition of Alvar Nunez, commonly 
known as Cabeca de Vaca, or Cow's Head, it is mentioned that 
the parents-in-law did not enter the son-in-law's house, nor he 
theirs, nor his brothers' -in-law, and if they met by chance, 
they went a bowshot out of their way, with their heads down 
and eyes fixed on the ground, for they held it a bad thing to 
see or speak to one another ; but the women were free to com- 
municate and converse with their parents-in-law and relatives. 2 
Higher up on the North American continent, customs of this 
kind have often been described. In the account of Major 
Long's Expedition to the Rocky Mountains, it is observed that 
among the Omahas the father- and mother-in-law do not speak 
to their son-in-law, nor mention his name, nor look in his face, 
and vice versa. 5 Among the Sioux or Dacotas, Mr. Philander 

1 Klemm, C. G-., vol. ii. p. 77. Kochefort, Hist. Nat., etc., des lies Antilles j 
Rotterdam, 1665, p. 545. 

Alvar Nunez, in vol. i, of * Historiadores Primitivos de Indiaa ;' Madrid, 1852, 
etc., chap. xxv. 3 Long's Exp., vol. i. p. 253. 


Prescott remarks on the fear of uttering certain names. The 
father- or mother-in-law must not call their son-in-law by 
name, and vice versa, and there are other relationships to 
which the prohibition applies. He has known an infringement 
of it punished by cutting the offender's clothes off his back 
and throwing them away. 1 Harmon says that among the In- 
dians east of the Rocky Mountains, it is indecent for the father- 
or mother-in-law to look at, or speak to, the son- or daughter- 
in-law. 2 Among the Crees, it is observed by Richardson that 
while an Indian lives with his wife's family his mother-in-law 
must not speak to or look at him, and it is also an old custom 
for a man not to eat or to sit down in the presence of his 
father-in-law. 3 

In some parts of Australia, the names of a father- or mother- 
in-law and of a son-in-law are set down among the personal 
names which must not be spoken, 4 and in the Fiji Islands pro- 
hibition of speech between parents-in-law and children-in-law 
has been recorded. 5 Among the Dayaks of Borneo, a man 
must not pronounce the name of his father-in-law, which cus- 
tom Mr. St. John, who mentions it, interprets as a sign of re- 
spect. 6 On the continent of Asia, among the Mongols and 
Calmucks, the young wife may not speak to her father-in-law 
nor sit in his presence, 7 but farther north, among the Yakuts, 
Adolph Erman noticed a much more peculiar custom. As in 
other northern regions, the custom of wearing but little cloth- 
ing in the hot, stifling interior of the huts is common there, 
and the women often go about their domestic work stripped to 
the waist, nor do they object to do so in the presence of stran- 
gers, but there are two persons before whom a Yakut woman 
must not appear in this guise, her father-in-law, and her hus- 
band's elder brother. 8 In Africa, among the Beni Amer, the 
wife u hides herself, as does the husband also, from the mother- 
in-law f* while among the Barea the wife " hides herself from 

1 Schoolcraft, part ii. p. 196. 3 Harmon, p. 341. 

3 Franklin, ' Journey to the Shores of the Polar Sea ;' London, 1823, pp. 70-1. 

4 Eyre, vol. ii. p. 339. * Williams, vol. i. p. 136. 

. 6 St. John, vol. i. p. 51. 7 Klemm, C. G., vol. iii. p. 169. 

8 Erman, E. Tr. vol. ii p. 420. 


her father-in-law, according to custom, which herein agrees 
with that of the aristocratic peoples/' 1 The Basuto custom 
forbids a wife to look in the face of her father-in-law till the 
birth of her first child, 2 and among the Banyai a man must sit 
with his knees bent in presence of his mother-in-law, and must 
not put out his feet towards her. 3 

Of this curious series of customs, I have met with no inter- 
pretation which can be put forward with confidence. Their 
object seems to be in general the avoidance of intercourse or 
connexion between parents-in-law and children-in-law, some- 
times to such an extent that one person may not look at the 
other, or even pronounce his or her name. But the reasons 
for this avoidance are not clear. 4 It is possible that a fuller 
study of the law of tabu may throw some light on the matter. 
The extraordinary summary of Fijian customs given by the 
Rev. Thomas Williams, may be here quoted in full ; it is pro- 
bably to be understood as taking in occasional or local prac- 
tices. " A free flow of the affections between members of the 
same family is further prevented by the strict observance of 
national or religious customs, imposing a most unnatural re- 
straint. Brothers and sisters, first cousins, fathers- and sons- 
in-law, mothers- and daughters-in-law, and brothers- and sis- 
ters-in-law, are thus severally forbidden to speak to each 
other, or to eat from the same dish. The latter embargo ex- 
tends to husbands and wives, — an arrangement not likely to 
foster domestic joy." Elsewhere the same author says, " in 
some parts, the father may not speak to his son after his fif- 
teenth year." 5 

The fourth and last group of customs has long been under 
notice, and lists have even been made of countries where prac- 
tices belonging to it have been found. 6 One of these prac- 

1 Munzinger, pp. 325, 526. 2 Casalis, p. 201. 3 Livingstone, p. 622. 

4 See St. John, Harmon, and Franklin, locis citatis. Prof. Lazarus pertinently 
suggests exaggeration of ordinary restrictions, and excessive reaction against the 
patria potestas. 

5 Williams, ' Fiji,' vol. i. pp. 136, 166. See Mariner, vol. ii. p. 147. 

6 M'Culloh, Researches ; Baltimore, 1829, p. 99. Waitz, Anthropology, vol. i. 
p. 257. Humboldt & Bonpland, E. Tr., vol. vi. p. 333. Lafitau, vol. i. p. 49. 


tices has an existing European name, the couvade, or " hatch- 
ing," and this term it may be convenient to use for the whole 
set. By working up the old information with the aid of some 
new facts, I have endeavoured to give an account, not only of 
the geographical distribution of the couvade, but of its na- 
ture and meaning. The most convenient way of discussing 
it is first to examine the forms it takes in South America and 
the West Indies, the district where it is not only developed to 
the highest degree, but is also practised with a clear notion of 
what it means ; and afterwards to trace its more scattered and 
obscure appearances in other quarters of the world. 

The following account is given by Du Tertre of the Carib 
couvade in the West Indies. When a child is born, the mother 
goes presently to her work, but the father begins to complain, 
and takes to his hammock, and there he is visited as though 
he were sick, and undergoes a course of dieting which would 
cure of the gout " the most replete of Frenchmen. How they 
can fast so much and not die of it," continues the narrator, 
" is amazing to me, for they sometimes pass the five first days 
without eating or drinking anything ; then up to the tenth 
they drink oiiycou, which has about as much nourishment in it 
as beer. These ten days passed, they begin to eat cassava only, 
drinking oiiycou, and abstaining from everything else for the 
space of a whole month. During this time, however, they 
only eat the inside of the cassava, so that what is left is like 
the rim of a hat when the block has been taken out, and all 
these cassava rims they keep for the feast at the end of forty 
days, hanging them up in the house with a cord. When the 
forty days are up they invite their relations and best friends, 
who being arrived, before they set to eating, hack the skin of 
this poor wretch with agouti-teeth, and draw blood, from all 
parts of his body, in such sort that from being sick by pure 
imagination they often make a real patient of him. This is, 
however, so to speak, only the fish, for now comes the sauce 
they prepare for him ; they take sixty or eighty large grains 
of pimento or Indian pepper, the strongest they can get, and 
after well mashing it in water, they wash with this peppery 
infusion the wounds and scars of the poor fellow, who I be- 


lieve suffers no less than if he were burnt alive ; however, he 
must not utter a single word if he will not pass for a coward 
and a wretch. This ceremony finished, they bring him back 
to his bed, where he remains some days more, and the rest go 
and make good cheer in the house at his expense. Nor is this 
all, for through the space of six whole months he eats neither 
birds nor fish, firmly believing that this would injure the child's 
stomach, and that it would participate in the natural faults of 
the animals on which its father had fed ; for example, if the 
father ate turtle, the child would be deaf and have no brains 
like this animal, if he ate manati, the child would have little 
round eyes like this creature, and so on with the rest." 1 

The Abate Grilij, after mentioning the wide prevalence of 
the fasting of the father on the birth of the child, among the 
tribes of the east side of South America, goes on as follows : — 
" But I know not if the cause is equally well known, why the 
Indians fast in such manner. I in the very beginning of my 
stay among them had the opportunity of discovering it, and 
this was how it happened. A fortified house having to be 
built for the soldiers to live in, as was usual for the defence 
not of the missionaries alone, but also of the reduced Indians, 
the Tamanacs, they being still gentiles, were summoned by 
the corporal Ermengildo Leale to work at it, and it was noticed 
that a certain Maracajuri, when the work was done, went away 
fasting, without even tasting a mouthful. ' What, has he no 
appetite V asked Leale in surprise. ( To be sure he has/ re- 
joined the other Indians, ' but his wife has had a child to-day, 
so he must not make use of these victuals, for the little boy 
would die/ ' But when our wives are brought to bed/ said 
the corporal, f we eat more abundantly and more joyously than 
usual, and our children do not die of it/ f But you are Span- 
iards/ the fools replied, ' and if your eating does no harm to 
your babies, you may be sure, nevertheless, that it is most 
hurtful to ours/ It may be easily imagined what laughter 

1 Du Tertre, Hist. Gen. des Antilles habitees par les Francais ; Paris, 1667, 
vol. ii. p. 371, etc. See Rochefort, Hist. Nat. et Mor. des lies des Antilles ; Rot- 
terdam, 1665, 2nd ed. p. 550. It seems from his account that the very severe 
fasting was only for the first child, that for the others being slight. » 



there was at this absurd notion. ' But not only the father's 
food/ the Tamanacs went on to say, ' but even killing fish or 
any other animal on such days, would do harm to the children/ 
When I knew of this nonsense, I set myself to work to seek 
out the motive of it, and taking aside one of the most reason- 
able of the savages : ' tell me/ I said, ' as the Spaniards do 
not fast at the birth of their children, for what reason do you 
fast at such a joyful moment V ' The child is ours, and pro- 
ceeds from us/ replied the savage, ' and the cooked food used 
by grown folks, which is profitable for us at other times, would 
now do the little children harm, if we ate it/ So I observed 
a sort of identity which he supposed to exist between father 
and son," etc. The missionary goes on to relate how he cured 
the Indian of the delusion, by showing that to give him a 
thrashing would have no effect on his child. 1 

Among the Arawaks of Surinam, for some time after the 
birth of his child, the father must fell no tree, fire no gun, hunt 
no large game ; he may stay near home, shoot little birds with 
a bow and arrow, and angle for little fish ; but his time hang- 
ing heavy on his hands, the most comfortable thing he can do 
is to lounge in his hammock. 2 Of the couvade among the 
fierce equestrian tribe of the Abipones, whose home lay south 
of the centre of the continent, the Jesuit missionary Dobriz- 
hoffer gives a full account. " No sooner do you hear that the 
wife has borne a child, than you will see the Abipone husband 
lying in bed, huddled up with mats and skins lest some ruder 
breath of air should touch him, fasting, kept in private, and 
for a number of days abstaining religiously from certain viands ; 
you would swear it was he who had had the child. ... I had 
read about this in old times, and laughed at it, never thinking 
I could believe such madness, and I used to suspect that this 
barbarian custom was related more in jest than in earnest ; but 
at last I saw it with my own eyes in use among the Abipones. 
And in truth they observe this ancestral custom, troublesome 
as it is, the more willingly and diligently from their being 
altogether persuaded that the sobriety and quiet of the fathers 

1 Gilij, * Saggio di Storia Americana,' vol. ii. p. 133, etc. 

2 Quandt, in Klemm C. G\, vol. ii. p. 83. 


is effectual for the well-being of the new-born offspring, and is 
even necessary. Hear, I pray, a confirmation of this matter. 
Francisco Barreda, Deputy of the Royal Governor of Tucu- 
man, came to visit the new colony of Conceicam in the terri- 
tory of Santiago. To him, as he was walking with me in the 
courtyard, the Cacique Malakin came up to pay his respects, 
having just left his bed, to which he had been confined in con- 
sequence of his wife's recent delivery. As I stood by, Bar- 
reda offered the Cacique a pinch of Spanish snuff, but seeing 
the savage refuse it contrary to custom, he thought he must be 
out of his mind, for he knew him at other times to be greedy 
of this nasal delicacy; so he asked me aside to inquire the 
cause of his abstinence. I asked him in the Abiponian tongue 
(for this Barreda was ignorant of, as the Cacique was of 
Spanish), why he refused his snuff to-day? 'Don't you 
know ?' he answered, ' that my wife has just been confined ? 
Must not I therefore abstain from stimulating my nostrils ? 
What a danger my sneezing would bring upon my child !' 
No more, but he went back to his hut to lie down again di- 
rectly, lest the tender little infant should take some harm if he 
stayed any longer with us in the open air. For they believe 
that the father's carelessuess influences the new-born offspring, 
from a natural bond and sympathy of both. Hence if the child 
comes to a premature end, its death is attributed by the women 
to the father's intemperance, this or that cause being assigned ; 
he did not abstain from mead ; he had loaded his stomach with 
water-hog ; he had swum across the river when the air was 
chilly ; he had neglected to shave off his long eyebrows ; he 
had devoured underground honey, stamping on the bees with 
his feet ; he had ridden till he was tired and sweated. With 
raving like this the crowd of women accuse the father with 
impunity of causing the child's death, and are accustomed to 
pour curses on the unoffending husband." 1 

We have laid open to us in these accounts a notably distinct 

Dobrizhoffer, ■ Historia de Abiponibus ;' Vienna, 1784, vol. ii. p. 231, etc. 
For other South American accounts of the couvade, see Biet, Voy. de la France 
Equinox., p. 389. Fermin, Descr. de Surinam ; Amsterdam, 1769, p. 81. Tschudi, 
•Peru,' vol. ii. p. 235. Purchas, vol. iv. p. 1291. Spix & Martius, pp. 1186,1339. 



view, among the lower races, of a mental state hard to trace 
among those high in the scale of civilization. The Couvade im- 
plicitly denies that physical separation of " individuals/' which 
a civilized man would probably set down as a first principle, 
common by nature to all mankind, till experience of the psy- 
chology of the savage showed him that he was mistaking edu- 
cation for intuition. It shows us a number of distinct and dis- 
tant tribes deliberately holding the opinion that the connexion 
between father and child is not only, as we think, a mere rela- 
tion of parentage, affection, duty, but that their very bodies 
are joined by a physical bond, so that what is done to the one 
acts directly upon the other. The couvade is not the only re- 
sult of the opinion which thus repudiates the physical severance 
that seems to come so natural to us; and this opinion again 
belongs, like Sorcery and Divination, to the mental state in 
which man does not separate the subjective mental connexion 
from the objective physical connexion, the connexion which is 
inside his mind from the connexion which is outside it, in the 
same way in which most educated men of the higher races 
make this separation. A few more cases will further illus- 
trate the effects of such a condition of mind. Not only is it 
held that the actions of the father, and the food that he eats, 
influence his child both before and after its birth, but that the 
actions and food of survivors affect the spirits of the dead on 
their journey to their home in the after life. Among the 
Land Dayaks of Borneo, the husband, before the birth of his 
child, may do no work with a sharp instrument except what is 
necessary for the farm ; nor may he fire guns, nor strike ani- 
mals, nor do any violent work, lest bad influences should affect 
the child; and after it is born the father is kept in seclusion 
indoors for several days, and dieted on rice and salt, to pre- 
vent not his own but the child's stomach from swelling. 1 In 
Kamchatka, the husband must not do such things as bend 
sledge-staves across his knee before his child is born, for such 
actions do harm to his wife. 2 V In Greenland, beside the strict 

1 St. John, vol. i. p. 160. Tr. Eth. Soc, 1863, p. 233. Compare the eight days' 
fast in Madagascar of the fathers whose children were to be circumcised. Voy. of 
Francois Cauche, p. 51, in Eel. de Madagascar, etc. ; Paris, 1651. 

2 Klemm, C. G., vol. ii. p. 207. Steller, « Kamtschatka,' p. 351. 


regulations imposed upon women after the birth of a child, the 
husband must for some weeks do no work and follow no occu- 
pation, except the procuring of necessary food, and this in 
order that the child may not die. When a Greenlander dies, 
his soul starts to travel into the land of Torngarsuk, where 
reigns perpetual summer, all sunshine and no night, where 
there is good water, and birds, fish, seals, and reindeer without 
end, that are to be caught without trouble, or are found cook- 
ing alive in a huge kettle. But the journey to this blessed 
land is difficult, the souls have to slide five days or more down 
a precipice all stained with the blood of those who have gone 
down before. And it is especially grievous for the poor souls 
when the journey must be made in winter or in tempest, for 
then a soul may come to harm, and suffer the other death, as 
they call it, when it perishes utterly, and nothing is left. And 
this is to them the most wretched fate ; and therefore the survi- 
vors, for these five days or more, must abstain from certain food, 
and all noisy work except their necessary fishing, that the soul 
on its dangerous journey may not be disturbed or come to harm. 1 
But perhaps no story on record so clearly shows how deeply 
the idea of these imaginary ties is rooted in the savage mind, 
as one told by Mr. Wallace in his South American tour : — 
" An Indian, who was one of my hunters, caught a fine cock of 
the rock, and gave it to his wife to feed ; but the poor woman 
was obliged to live herself on cassava-bread and fruits, and 
abstain entirely from all animal food, pepper, and salt, which 
it was believed would cause the bird to die." The bird died 
after all, and the woman was beaten by her husband for having 
killed it by some violation of the rule of abstinence. 2 

But the explanation of the practices of the couvade, from 
the confusion of imaginary and real relations, sound as it may 
be so far it goes, is incomplete. They almost all involve giving 
over the parentage to the father, and leaving the mother out 
of the question. 3 This was an ancient Egyptian opinion, as 
Southey points out when mentioning its most startling deve- 

1 Cranz, pp. 275, 258. 

2 Wallace, p. 502. For other connected practices, see Id. p. 501. Spix and 
Martius, p. 381. 3 But see Spix and Martius, p. 1186. 


lopment in the practice of the Tupinambas of Brazil,, who would 
give their own women as wives to their male captives, and 
then, without scruple, eat the children when they grew up, 
holding them simply to be of the flesh and blood of their ene- 
mies. It is strange that writers who have spoken of the cou- 
vade during the half-century since Southey wrote, and have 
even quoted him, should have so neglected the contribution he 
made to the psychology of the lower races in bringing forward 
as the source of this remarkable practice at once the Egyptian 
and American theory of parentage, and the belief in bodily 
union between father and child. 1 

To trace now the geographical distribution of the couvade in 
other parts of the world. The fasting observed in South Ame- 
rica and the West Indies seems to extend no further ; repose, 
careful nursing, and nourishing food being the treatment usual 
for the imaginary invalid. Venegas mentions this kind of 
couvade among the Indians of California; 2 Zucchelli, in West 
Africa; 3 Captain Yan der Hart, in Bouro, in the Eastern Archi- 
pelago. 4 The country of Eastern Asia where Marco Polo 
met with the practice of the couvade in the thirteenth century, 
appears to be the Chinese province of West Yunnan, 5 so that 
the widow's remark to Sir Hudibras is true in a geographical 
sense, — 

" For though Chineses go to bed, 
And lie-in in their ladies' stead." 

But it does not at all follow from this that the couvade was prac- 
tised among the race ethnologically known to us as the Chinese. 
The people among whom Marco Polo found it were probably 
one of the distinct and less cultured races within the vast Chi- 
nese frontier, for it has been noticed among the mountain tribes 
known as the Miau-tsze, or " Children of the soil," who differ 
from the Chinese proper in body, language, and civilization, 
and are supposed to be, like the Sontals and Gonds of India, 

1 Southey, vol. i. pp. 227, 248. Compare Spix and Martius, p. 1339. 

2 Venegas, vol. i. p. 94. 3 Zucchelli, p. 165. 

4 C. v. der Hart, 'Keize rondom het eiland Celebes ;' 'Sgravenhage, 1853, p. 137. 
* Marco Polo, Latin ed., 1671, lib. ii. c. xli. Marsden's Tr.; London, 1818, 
p. 434. 


remnants of a race driven into the mountains by the present 
dwellers in the plains. A Chinese traveller among the Miati- 
tsze, giving an account of their manners and customs, notices, 
as though the idea were quite strange to him, that " In one 
tribe it is the custom for the father of a new-born child, as 
soon as its mother has become strong enough to leave her 
couch, to get into bed himself, and there receive the congra- 
tulations of his acquaintances, as he exhibits his offspring. 1 
Another Asiatic people recorded to have practised the cou- 
vade are the Tibareni of Pontus, at the south of the Black 
Sea, among whom, when the child was born, the father lay 
groaning in bed with his head tied up, while the mother 
tended him with food, and prepared his baths. 2 In Europe, 
the couvade may be traced up from ancient into modern 
times in the neighbourhood of the Pyrenees. Above eighteen 
hundred years ago, Strabo mentions the story that among 
the Iberians of the North of Spain the women, " after the 
birth of a child, tend their husbands, putting them to bed 
instead of going themselves; " 3 and this account is confirmed 
by the existence of the practice among the modern Basques. 
'■ In Biscay," says Michel, " in vallies whose population recalls 
in its usages the infancy of society, the women rise immediately 
after child-birth, and attend to the duties of the household, 
while the husband goes to bed, taking the baby with him, and 
thus receives the neighbours' compliments." 4 It has been 
found also in Navarre, 5 and on the French side of the Pyrenees. 
Legrand d'Aussy mentions that in an old French fabliau the 
King of Torelore is " au lit et en couche M when Aucassin arrives 
and takes a stick to him, and makes him promise to abolish 
the custom in his realm. And the same author goes on to 

1 W. Lockhart, in Tr. Eth. Soc. 1861, p. 181. ^Rochefort (p. 550) seta down 
the Japanese as practising the couvade ; and the same bare mention appears in 
later writers, who, perhaps, merely followed him. Is his statement based on 
proper evidence, or simply a mistake ? 

3 Apoll. Rhod. Argonautica, ii. 1009. C. Yal. Flacc. Argon., v. 148. 

3 Strabo, iii. 4, 17. 

4 Michel, * Le Pays Basque ; ■ Paris, 1857, p. 201. A. de Quatrefages, in Rev 
des Deux Mondes, 1850, vol. v. 

5 Laborde, 'Itineraire de l'Espagne;' Paris, 1834, vol. i. p. 273. 


say that the practice is said still to exist in some cantons of 
Beam, where it is called faire la couvade. 1 Lastly, Diodorus 
Siculus notices the same habit of the wife being neglected, and 
the hnsband put to bed and treated as the patient, among the 
natives of Corsica about the beginning of the Christian era. 2 
- The ethnological value of the four groups of customs now 
described is not to be weighed with much nicety. The pro- 
hibitions of marriage among distant kindred go for least in 
proving connexion by blood or intercourse between the dis- 
tant races who practise them, as it is easy to suppose them to 
have grown up again and again from like grounds. But it is 
hard to suppose that the curiously similar restrictions in the 
intercourse between parents-in-law and their children-in-law 
can be of independent growth in each of the remote districts 
where they prevail, and still more difficult to suppose the 
quaint trick of the cure by the pretended extraction of objects 
from the patient's body to have made its appearance indepen- 
dently in Africa, in America, in Australia, in Europe. In such 
cases as these there is considerable force in the supposition of 
there being often, if not always, a historical connexion be- 
tween their origin in different regions. Thus, the isolated 
occurrences of a custom among particular races surrounded 
by other races who ignore it, may be sometimes to the eth- 
nologist like those outlying patches of strata from which the 
geologist infers that the formation they belong to once spread 
over intervening districts, from which it has been removed by 
denudation; or like the geographical distribution of plants, 
from which the botanist argues that they have travelled from 
a distant home. The way in which the couvade appears in the 
New and Old Worlds is especially interesting from this point 
of view. Among the savage tribes of South America it is, as 
it were, at home in a mental atmosphere at least not so dif- 
ferent from that in which it came into being as to make it a 
mere meaningless, absurd superstition. If the culture of the 

1 Legrand d' Aussy, c Fabliaux du xn e et xm c Siecle,' 3rd ed. ; Paris, 1829, vol. iii. 
" Aucassin et Nicolette." Rochefort, 1. c. [Faire la couvade, to sit cowring, or 
skowking within doors; to lurke in the campe when Gallants are at the Battell; 
(any way) to play least in sight (Cotgrave).] 2 Diod. Sic., v. 14. 


Caribs and Brazilians, even before they came under our know- 
ledge, had advanced too far to allow the couvade to grow up 
fresh among them, they at least practised it with some con- 
sciousness of its meaning ; it had not fallen out of unison with 
their mental state. Here, then, we find covering a vast com- 
pact area of country, the mental stratum, so to speak, to which 
the couvade most nearly belongs. But if we look at its ap- 
pearances across from China to Corsica, the state of things is 
widely different ; no theory of its origin can be drawn from the 
Asiatic and European accounts to compete for a moment with 
that which flows naturally from the observations of the mis- 
sionaries, who found it not a mere dead custom, but a live 
growth of savage psychology. The peoples, too, who have 
kept it up in Asia and Europe seem to have been not the great 
progressive, spreading, conquering, civilizing nations of the 
Aryan, Semitic, and Chinese stocks. It cannot be ascribed 
even to the Tatars, for the Lapps, Finns, and Hungarians 
appear to know nothing of it. It would seem rather to have 
belonged to that ruder population, or series of populations, 
whose fate it has been to be driven by the great races out of 
their fruitful lands, to take refuge in mountains and deserts. 
The retainers of the couvade in Asia are the Miau-tsze of China, 
and the savage Tibareni of Pontus. In Europe, they are the 
Basque race of the Pyrenees, whose peculiar manners, appear- 
ance, and language, coupled with their geographical position, 
favour the view that they are the remains of a people driven 
westward and westward by the pressure of more powerful 
tribes, till they came to these last mountains with nothing but 
the Atlantic beyond. Of what stock were the original barba- 
rian inhabitants of Corsica, we do not know ; but their posi- 
tion, and the fact that they, too, had the couvade, would sug- 
gest their having been a branch of the same family, who es- 
caped their persecutors by putting out to sea, and settling in 
their mountainous island. 




The traditions current among mankind are partly historical 
and partly mythical. To the ethnologist they are of value in 
two very different ways, sometimes as preserving the memory 
of past events, sometimes as showing by their occurrence in 
different districts of the world that between the inhabitants of 
these districts there has been in some way a historical con- 
nexion. His great difficulty in dealing with them is to sepa- 
rate the fact and the fiction, which are both so valuable in their 
different ways ; and this difficulty is aggravated by the circum- 
stance that these two elements are often mixed up in a most 
complex manner, myths presenting themselves in the dress 
of historical narrative, and historical facts growing into the 
wildest myths. 

Between the traditions of real events, which are History, 
and the pure myths, whose origin and development are being 
brought more and more clearly into view in our own times 
by the labours of Adalbert Kuhn and Max Muller, and their 
school, there lie a mass of stories which may be called " Myths 
of Observation." They are inferences from observed facts, 
which take the form of positive assertions, and they differ 
principally from the inductions of modern science in being 
much more generally crude and erroneous, and in taking to 
themselves names of persons, and more or less of purely sub- 
jective detail, which enables them to assume the appearance 


of real history. When a savage builds upon the discovery of 
great bones buried in the earth a story of a combat of the 
giants and monsters whose remains they are, he constructs a 
Myth of Observation which may shape itself into the form of 
a historical tradition, and be all the more puzzling for the por- 
tion of scientific truth which it really contains. The object of 
the present chapter is to collect a quantity of evidence, bearing 
on the problem how to separate Historical Traditions and Myths 
of Observation from pure Myths, and from one another. 

Though it may not be possible to lay down any general 
canon of criticism by which the historical and mythical ele- 
ments of tradition may be separated, it is to some extent pos- 
sible to judge by internal evidence whether or not a particular 
legend or episode has a claim to be considered as history. It 
happens sometimes that a legend contains statements which 
are hardly likely to have come into the minds of the original 
narrators of the story, except by actual experience. The Chi- 
nese legend which tells us the name of the ancient sage who 
taught his people to make fire by the friction of wood cannot 
be taken as it stands for real history, seeing that so many na- 
tions ascribe this and other arts to mythic heroes, yet it em- 
bodies a recollection of a time when this was the ordinary way 
of producing fire. So, when the same people tell us that they 
once used knotted cords like the Peruvian quipus, as records 
of events, and that the art of writing superseded this ruder ex- 
pedient, we are in no way called upon to receive the names and 
dates of the inventors to whom they ascribe these arts ; but, at 
the same time, it is hard to imagine what could have put such 
an idea into their heads, unless there had been a foundation of 
fact for the story, in the actual use of quipus in the country 
before writing became general. 

In the traditions which the Polynesians have preserved of 
their migrations in past times, it is likely that some historic 
truth may be preserved, and with their help, aided by a closer 
study of the languages and myths of the district, it may be 
some day possible for ethnologists to sketch out, at least 
roughly, the history of the race for ages before the European 
discovery. Much of the historical value of the South Sea tra- 


ditions is due to their being commonly preserved in verses 
kept alive by frequent repetition, and in which even small 
events are placed on record with an accuracy and permanence 
that yields only to written history. Thus a question that arose 
when Ellis was in Tahiti, about a certain buoy that was stolen 
from the c Bounty ' nearly thirty years before, was settled at 
once by a couple of lines from a native song. 

" O mea eia e Tareu eia 

Eia te poito a Bligh." 
" Such a one a thief, and Tareu a thief, 

Stole the buoy of Bligh." 1 

Among the mass of Central American traditions which have 
become known through the labours of the Abbe Brasseur, 
there occur certain passages in the story of an early migration 
of the Quiche race, which have much the appearance of vague 
and broken stories derived in some way from high northern 
latitudes. The Quiche manuscript describes the ancestors of 
the race as travelling away from the rising of the sun, and 
goes on thus : — " But it is not clear how they crossed the sea, 
they passed as though there had been no sea, for they passed 
over scattered rocks, and these rocks were rolled on the sands. 
This is why they called the place ( ranged stones and torn-up 
sands/ the name which they gave it on their passage within 
the sea, the water being divided when they passed." Then 
the people collected on a mountain called Chi Pixab, and there 
they fasted in darkness and night. Afterwards it is related 
that they removed, and waited for the dawn which was ap- 
proaching, and the manuscript says : — ' ' Now, behold, our 
ancients and our fathers were made lords and had their dawn ; 
behold, we will relate also the rising of the dawn and the ap- 
parition of the sun, the moon, and the stars." Great was their 
joy when they saw the morning star, which came out first with 
its resplendent face before the sun. At last the sun itself 
began to come forth ; the animals, small and great, were in joy ; 
they rose from the watercourses and ravines, and stood on the 
mountain tops with their heads towards where the sun was 

1 Ellis, Polyn. Kes., vol. i. p. 287. 


coming. An innumerable crowd of people were there, and 
the dawn cast light on all these nations at once. l ' At last the 
face of the ground was dried by the sun : like a man the sun 
showed himself, and his presence warmed and dried the sur- 
face of the ground. Before the sun appeared, muddy and wet 
was the surface of the ground, and it was before the sun ap- 
peared, and then only the sun rose like a man. But his heat 
had no strength, and he did but show himself when he rose, 
he only remained like (an image in) a mirror, and it is not in- 
deed the same sun that appears now, they say in the stories." 1 

Obscure as much of this is, there are things in it which 
agree very curiously with the phenomena of the Arctic regions. 
The cold and darkness, the sea not like a sea but like rocks 
rolled on the sand, the long waiting for the sun, and its ap- 
pearance at last with little strength, and but just rising above 
the horizon, form a picture which corresponds with the nature 
of the high north, as much as it differs from that of the tropical 
regions where the tradition is found. We read of Arctic voy- 
agers going out to watch for the reappearance of the sun to- 
wards the close of the long dismal winter, 2 and the judgment 
that it was not indeed the sun of Central America that appeared 
so strangely, may be placed by the side of a remark made by 
a savage in another country. Sir George Grey, travelling in 
Australia, was once telling stories of distant countries to a 
party of natives round the camp fire ; ' ' I now spoke to them 
of still more northern latitudes ; and went so far as to describe 
those countries in which the sun never sets at a certain period 
of the year. Their astonishment now knew no bounds : ' Ah ! 
that must be another sun, not the same as the one we see 
here/ said an old man ; and in spite of all my arguments to 
the contrary, the others adopted this opinion/'' 3 

The legend of the introduction of rice in Borneo relates how 
a Dayak climbed up a tree which grew downward from the 
sky, and so got up to the Pleiades, and there he found a per- 
sonage who took him to his house and gave him boiled rice to 
eat. He had never seen rice before, and the story says that 

1 Brasseur, ' Popol Tun,' pp. 231-43 ; 'Mexique,' vol. i. pp. 169-76. 

2 Purchas, vol. iii. p. 499. 3 Grey, Journals, vol. i. p 293. 


when he saw the grains, he thought they were maggots. 1 Now 
there is a tradition of recent date, among the Keethratlah In- 
dians of British Columbia, which tells in the most graphic way 
the story of the first appearance of the white men among them ; 
how an Indian canoe was out catching halibut, when the noise 
of a huge sea-monster was heard, plunging along through the 
thick mist; the Indians drew up their lines and paddled to 
shore, when the monster proved to be a boat full of strange- 
looking men. " The strangers landed, and beckoned the In- 
dians to come to them and bring them some fish. One of 
them had over his shoulder what was supposed to be a stick : 
presently he pointed it to a bird that was flying past — a violent 
poo went forth — down came the bird to the ground. The In- 
dians died ! as they revived, they questioned each other as to 
their state, whether any were dead, and what each had felt. 
The whites then made signs for a fire to be lighted ; the In- 
dians proceeded at once, according to their usual tedious prac- 
tice, of rubbing two sticks together. The strangers laughed, 
and one of them, snatching up a handful of dry grass, struck a 
spark into a little powder placed under it. Instantly another 
poo ! — and a blaze. The Indians died ! After this the new- 
comers wanted some fish boiled : the Indians, therefore, put 
the fish and water into one of their square wooden buckets, 
and set some stones on the fire ; intending, when they were 
hot, to cast them into the vessel, and thus boil the food. The 
whites were not satisfied with this way : one of them fetched 
a tin kettle out of the boat, put the fish and some water into 
it, and then, strange to say, set it on the fire. The Indians 
looked on with astonishment. However, the kettle did not 
consume ; the water did not run into the fire. Then, again, 
the Indians died ! When the fish was eaten, the strangers 
put a kettle of rice on the fire ; the Indians looked at each 
other, and whispered Akshahn, dkshahn!, or ' Maggots, mag- 
gots L 1 * 2 

Again, the Australians have had the same idea of what rice 
was, for in the Moorunde dialect it is called "yeelilee," or 

1 St. John, vol. i. p. 202, and see under, Chap. XII. 

2 Mayne, « British Columbia,' p. 279. 


"maggots," 1 a name which, of course, dates from the recent 
time when foreigners brought it to the country. When, there- 
fore, we are told in the Borneo tale that the first Dayak who 
saw grains of rice took them for maggots, we are, I think, 
justified in believing this notion to be in Borneo, as elsewhere, 
a real reminiscence of the introduction of rice into the country, 
though this piece of actual history comes to us woven into the 
texture of an ancient myth. There is reason to suppose that 
rice was introduced into the Malay islands from Asia; in 
Marsden's time it had not been adopted even in Engano and 
Batu, which are islands close to Sumatra. 2 

When a tradition is once firmly planted among the legendary 
lore of a tribe, there seems scarcely any limit to the time 
through which it may be kept up by continual repetition from 
one generation to the next; unless such an event as the 
coming of a stronger and more highly cultivated race entirely 
upsets the old state of society, and destroys the old landmarks. 
The traditions of the Polynesians, for instance, seem often to 
be of great age, for they occur among the natives of distant 
islands whose languages have had time to diverge widely from 
a common origin ; but even the most long-lived stories are 
fast disappearing, under European influence, from the memory 
of the people. The historical value of a tradition does not of 
necessity vary inversely with its age, and indeed this rule-of- 
three test goes for very little, for some very old stories are, 
beyond a doubt, of greater historical value than other very 
new ones current in the same tribe. 

There is even a certain amount of evidence which tends to 
prove that the memory of the huge animals of the quaternary 
period has been preserved up to modern times in popular tra- 
dition. It is but quite lately that the fact of man having lived 
on the earth at the same time with the mammoth has become 
a generally received opinion, though its probability has been 
seen by a few far-sighted thinkers for many years past, and it 
had been suggested long before the late discoveries in the 
Drift-beds, that several traditions, found in different parts of 

1 Eyre, yol. ii. p. 393. 

2 Marsden, pp. 467, 474. See Ellis, ' Madagascar,' vol. i. p. 39. 


the world, were derived from actual memory of the remote 
time when various great animals, generally thought to have 
died out before the appearance of man upon the earth, were 
still alive. The subject is hardly in a state to express a de- 
cided opinion upon, but the evidence is worthy of the most 
careful attention. 

Father Charlevoix, whose ' History of New France ' was pub- 
lished in 1744, records a North American legend of a great elk. 
" There is current also among these barbarians a pleasant 
enough tradition of a great Elk, beside whom others seem 
like ants. He has, they say, legs so high that eight feet of 
snow do not embarrass him : his skin is proof against all 
sorts of weapons, and he has a sort of arm which comes out 
of his shoulder, and which he uses as we do ours." l It is 
hard to imagine that anything but the actual sight of a live 
elephant can have given rise to this tradition. The suggestion 
that it might have been founded on the sight of a mammoth 
frozen with his flesh and skin, as they are found in Siberia, is 
not tenable, for the trunks and tails of these animals perish 
first, and are not preserved like the more solid parts, so that 
the Asiatic myths which have grown out of the finding of these 
frozen beasts, know nothing of such appendages. Moreover, 

no savage who had 
never heard of the 
use of an elephant's 
trunk would ima- 
gine from a sight 
of the dead animal, 
even if its trunk 
were perfect, that 
its use was to be 
compared with that 
of a man's arm. 
The notion that 
Fig- 30. the Indian story of 

the Great Elk was a real reminiscence of a living proboscidian, 
is strengthened by a remarkable drawing, Fig. 30, from one of 

1 Charlevoix, vol. v. p. 187. 


the Mexican picture-writings. It represents a masked priest 
sacrificing a human victim, and Humboldt ' copies it in the 
' Vues des Cordilleres' with the following remarks : — " I should 
not have had this hideous scene engraved, were it not that the 
disguise of the sacrificing priest presents some remarkable and 
apparently not accidental resemblances with the Hindoo Ganesa 
[the elephant-headed god of wisdom]. The Mexicans used 
masks imitating the shape of the heads of the serpent, the 
crocodile, or the jaguar. One seems to recognize in the sacri- 
fice's mask the trunk of an elephant or some pachyderm re- 
sembling it in the shape of the head, but with an upper jaw 
furnished with incisive teeth. The snout of the tapir no doubt 
protrudes a little more than that of our pigs, but it is a long 
way from the tapir's snout to the trunk figured in the ' Codex 
Borgianus/ Had the peoples of Aztlan, derived from Asia, 
some vague notions of the elephant, or, as seems to me much 
less probable, did their traditions reach back to the time when 
America was still inhabited by these gigantic animals, whose 
petrified skeletons are found buried in the marly ground on 
the very ridge of the Mexican Cordilleras ? >n It may be worth 
while to notice in connection with Humboldt's remarks, that 
when Mr. Bates showed a picture of an elephant to some South 
American Indians, they settled it that the creature must be a 
large kind of tapir. 2 

Attempts have been made by other writers to connect the 
memory of animals now extinct, with mythological tales cur- 
rent in the regions to which they belong. Dr. Falconer is dis- 
posed to connect the huge elephant-fighting and world-bearing 
tortoises of the Hindoo mythology with a recollection of the time 
when his monstrous Himalayan tortoise, the Co lossochelys Atlas, 
the restoration of which forms so striking an object in the British 
Museum, was still alive. 3 The savage tribes of Brazil have 
traditions about a being whom they call the Curupira. " Some- 
times he is described as a kind of orang-otang, being covered 
with long, shaggy hair, and living in trees. At others he is 

1 Humboldt, Yues des Cord., pi. xv. ; Borgia MS. in Kingsborough, vol. iii. 

2 Bates, ' Amazons,' vol. ii. p. 128. 

3 Falconer, in Proc. Zool. Soc., part xii., 1844, p. 86. 


said to have cloven feet, and a bright red face. He has a wife 
and children, and sometimes comes down to the rocas to steal 
the mandioca." Similar to, or the same as this being, is the 
Caypor, whom the Indians, in their masquerades, represent as 
a bulky, misshapen monster, with red skin and long shaggy 
red hair, hanging halfway down his back. 1 With reference to 
these Brazilian stories, Mr. Carter Blake remarks — " In Brazil 
the Indians had a tradition of a gigantic anthropoid ape, the 
caypore, which represented the African gorilla. No such ape 
exists in the present day ; but in the post-pliocene in Brazil, 
remains have been preserved of an extinct ape (Protopithecus 
antiquus) four feet high, which might possibly have lived down 
to the human period, and formed the subject of the tradition." 2 
Lastly, Colonel Hamilton Smith has collected a quantity of evi- 
dence, thought by him to bear on the preservation of the 
memory of extinct creatures, adding to Father Charlevoix's 
great Elk, and the Pere aux Bceufs from Buffon, a North Ame- 
rican " Naked Bear," and an East Indian " Elephant-Horse," 
etc., and endeavouring to identify them in nature. 3 

To proceed now from the traditions which have, or may set 
up some sort of claim to have, a historical foundation, to the 
Myths of Observation, which are so often liable to be confounded 
with them : it is to be noticed that if the inference from 
facts, which forms the basis of such a myth, should happen to 
be a correct one, and if the story should also happen to have 
fairly dropped out of sight the evidence out of which it grew, 
its separation from a real tradition of events may be hardly 
possible. Fortunately for the Ethnologist, it is very common 
for such stories to betray their unhistoric origin in one or both 
of these ways, either by recording things which seemed indeed 
probable when the myths arose, but which modern knowledge 
repudiates, or by having embodied with them the facts which 
have been appealed to for ages as confirmation of their truth, 
but which we are now in a position to recognize at once as the 
very basis on which their mythical structure was raised. 

1 Bates, ' Amazons,' vol. i. p. 73 ; vol. ii. p. 204. 

2 C. Carter Blake in Tr. Eth. Soc. 1863, p. 169. 

3 C. Hamilton Smith, Nat. Hist, of Human Sp., pp. 104-6. 


A good example of a Myth of Observation is a story current 
in Egypt in Strabo's time, but which he, having indeed a con- 
siderable knowledge of geology, declines to believe. "But 
one of the wondrous things," he says, " which we saw about 
the pyramids, must not be passed over. There lie in front of 
the pyramids certain heaps of the masons' rubbish, and among 
these there are found pieces in shape and size like lentils, and 
in some, as it were, half-peeled grains. They say, the leavings 
of the workmen's food have been turned into stone, but this 
is not likely, for at home among us there is a longish ridge of 
hill in a plain, and this is full of lentil -like stones of tufa, etc." 1 

To men whose country has the open sea to its west it seems 
that the sun plunges at night into its waters. Now the sun 
is evidently a mass of matter at a distance, and very hot, 
and when red-hot bodies come in contact with water there 
follows a hissing noise ; and thus the inference is easy and 
straightforward, that when the sun dips into the waves such 
a sound ought to be heard. From the inference that the 
hissing might be heard, to the assertion that it has actually 
been heard, is the easy step by which the crude argument of 
early science passes into the full-grown Myth of Observation. 
In two distant countries where the world seems to end west- 
ward in the boundless ocean, the story is to be found. The 
Sacred Promontory, that is Cape St. Yincent, Strabo says, is 
the westernmost point, not of Europe alone, but of the whole 
habitable earth, and there Posidonius tells how the vulgar say 
the sun goes down larger on the ocean-coast, and with a noise 
almost as it were the sea hissing as the sun plunges into its 
depths and is quenched ; but this is false, as well as that the 
night follows instantly upon its setting. 2 So in the Pacific, 
in some of the Society Islands, the name for sunset means the 
falling of the sun into the sea, and the sun itself is thought 
to be a substance resembling fire. Mr. Ellis asked them how 
they knew it fell into the sea, and they said they had not 
seen it, but some people of Borabora or Maupiti, the most 
western islands, had once heard the hissing occasioned by its 
plunging into the ocean. 3 

1 Strabo, xvii. 1, 34. 2 Strabo, iii. 1, 5. 3 Ellis, Polyn. Res., vol. ii. p. 414. 

x 2 


From the incredulous geographer who records the stories of 
the fossil lentils and the hissing sun, yet another Myth of Ob- 
servation may be taken, which shows well the easy transition 
from " it may have been," to " it was," which lies at their root. 
Mr. Catlin, in one of his journeys, says that he came to a place 
where he saw rocks " looking as if they had actually dropped 
from the clouds in such a confused mass, and all lay where 
they had fallen." So in old times, a round plain between Mar- 
seilles and the mouths of the Rhone was called the " stony " 
plain, from its being covered with stones as big as a man's fist. 
You would think, says Pomponius Mela, that the stones had 
rained there, so many are they, and so far and wide do they 
lie. 1 Now ^Eschylus, says Strabo, having perceived the diffi- 
culty of accounting for these stones, or having heard about it 
from some one else, has wrested the whole matter into a myth. 
In some lines of his, preserved to us by Strabo' s quotation of 
them, Prometheus, explaining to Hercules his way from the 
Caucasus to the Hesperides, tells him how when his missiles 
fail him in his fight with the Ligurians, and the soft earth will 
not even afford him a stone, Jove, pitying his defenceless state, 
will rain down a shower of round pebbles over the ground, 
hurling which he will easily rout his foes. 2 

Fossil remains have for ages been objects of curious specu- 
lation to mankind. In the most distant regions where huge 
bones have been found, they have been explained, truly enough, 
as being the bones of monstrous beasts, and as plausibly, 
though, as later investigations have shown within the last cen- 
tury, not so correctly, as bones of giants. Given the belief that 
the earth was formerly inhabited by monsters and giants, the 
myth-making power of the human mind gave ' '. a local habita- 
tion and a name " wherever it was required, and the battles of 
these monsters with each other, and with man, were worked 
into the general mass of popular tradition, with gradually in- 
creasing fulness and accuracy of detail. The Asiatic sagas 
which have grown out of the finding of the frozen mammoths, 
and the fossil remains of these and other great extinct ani- 
mals, are excellent cases in point. Many of them have been 
1 Catlin, vol. ii. p. 70. Mela, ii. c. 5. 2 Strabo, iv. 1, 7. 


collected and criticized in an admirable paper published more 
than twenty years ago by Yon Olfers, of Berlin. 1 

The Siberians are constantly finding bones and teeth of mam- 
moths imbedded in the faces of cliffs or river banks at some 
depth below the surface. Often a mass of earth or gravel falls 
away from such a cliff, and exposes such remains. How could 
they have got there ? A plausible explanation suggested itself, 
that the creature was a huge burrowing animal, and lived un- 
derground. Not only the skeleton, but the body in tolerable 
preservation with flesh and skin being found in a frozen state 
in high Northern latitudes, the notion grew up that it was a 
monstrous kind of burrowing rat, and it is described in Chinese 
books under such names as/en-shu, or " digging rat," yen-men, 
or " burrowing ox," shu-mu, "mother of mice," and so on. A 
difficulty which suggested itself to the native Siberian geologists 
was met in a characteristic manner. It was strange that when- 
ever they came upon a mammoth imbedded in a cliff, it was 
always dead. It must be a creature unable to bear the air or 
the light, and when in the course of its subterranean wander- 
ings it breaks through to the outer air, it dies immediately. 
With so much knowledge of the natural history of the creature 
to start from, other details grow round it in the usual way. 
Yakuts and Tunguz have seen the earth heave and sink, as a 
mammoth walked beneath. It frequents marshes, and travels 
underground, never appearing above the surface of the earth 
or water during the day, but has been seen at dawn in lakes 
and rivers, just as it dived below. The account of it given in 
the Chinese Encyclopaedia of Kang-hi is as follows : — 

" Fen-shu. — The cold is extreme and almost continual on the 
coast of the Northern Sea, beyond the Tai-tong-Kiang j on this 
coast is found the animal Fen-shu, which resembles a rat in 
shape, but is as big as an elephant ; it dwells in dark ca- 
verns, and ever shuns the light. There is got from it an ivory 
as white as that of the elephant, but easier to work, and not 
liable to split. Its flesh is very cold, and excellent for refresh - 

1 J. F. M. v. Olfers, ' Die Ueberreste vorweltlicher Eiesenthiere in Beziehung 
zu Ostasiatischen Sagen unci Chinesischen Schriften ' (Berlin Acad., 1839) ; Ber- 
lin, 1840. 


ing the blood. The ancient book Shm-y-King, speaks of this 
animal in the following terms : — There is in the extreme 
north, among the snows and ice which cover this region, a shu 
(rat), which weighs up to a thousand pounds, its flesh is very- 
good for those who are heated. The Tse-shu calls it fen-shu, 
and speaks of another kind which is of less size ; it is only, 
says this authority, as large as a buffalo, it burrows like the 
moles, shuns the light, and almost always stays in its under- 
ground caves. It is said that it would die if it saw the light of 
the sun, or even of the moon." 1 

The story of the mammoth being a burrowing animal, which 
has arisen from the finding its remains exposed in cliffs or banks 
deep below the surface, becomes the more valuable as evidence 
of the growth of myths, from the fact that on the other side of 
the world a like story has developed itself from a like origin. 
When Darwin visited certain cliffs of the River Parana, between 
Buenos Ayres and Santa Fe, where many bones of Mastodons 
are found, he says, " The men who took me in the canoe, said 
they had long known of these skeletons, and had often won- 
dered how they had got there : the necessity of a theory being 
felt, they came to the conclusion that, like the bizcacha, the 
mastodon was formerly a burrowing animal." 3 The bizcacha is 
a small rabbit-like rodent, common on the Pampas. 

Other fossil remains beside those of the mammoth have given 
rise to myths of observation in Siberia. The curved tusks of 
the Rhinoceros tichorhinus are something like the claws of a 
monstrous bird, and when both tusks are found united by part 
of the skull, the whole might very well be taken by a man to- 
tally ignorant of anatomy, for the bird's foot with two claws. 
The Siberians not only believe the horns of the rhinoceros to 
be the claws of an enormous bird, and call them " bird's claws " 
accordingly, but a family of myths has developed itself out of 
this belief, how these winged monsters live4 in the country in 
the time of the ancestors of the present inhabitants, who fought 
with them for the possession of the land. One story tells how 
the country was wasted by one of them, till a wise man fixed a 

1 Mem. cone, les Chinois, vol. iv. p. 481. Klemni, C. G\, vol. vi. p. 471. 

2 Darwin, p. 127. 


pointed iron spear on the top of a pine-tree, and the bird 
alighted there, and skewered itself upon the lance. 

Adolf Erman connects, with much plausibility, the well- 
known ruJeh of the Arabian Nights, and the griffin (ypv^) of 
Herodotus, with the tales of monstrous birds current in the 
gold-producing regions of Siberia j and he even suggests the 
remark that gold-bearing sand really underlies the beds which 
contain these fossil " bird's claws" as an explanation of the 
passage, "it is said that the Arimaspi, one-eyed men, seize 
(the gold) from underneath the griffins (\iyerac Be vire/c reov 
<ypvTr<hv apira'Cpiv 'ApifiaaTrovs avSpas pLovvo^OakfjLOV^)} At 
about the same time as Herodotus, Ctesias brings out more 
fully the familiar figure of the griffin. " There is also gold," 
he says, " in the Indian country, not found in the streams and 
washed, as in the river Pactolus ; but there are many and great 
mountains, wherein dwell the griffins, four-footed birds of the 
greatness of the wolf, but with legs and claws like lions. The 
feathers on the rest of their bodies are black, but red on the 
breast. Through them it is that the gold in the mountains, 
though plentiful, is most difficult to get." 2 That the Siberian 
myths of monstrous birds have passed into the mediaeval no- 
tions of the griffins admits of no question whatever. Albertus 
Magnus describes them as quadrupeds, with birds' beaks anc 1 
wings j they dwell in Scythia, and possess the gold, and silver, 
and precious stones. The Arimaspi fight with them. In its 
nest the griffin lays the agate for its help and medicine. It is 
hostile to men and horses ; it has long claws, which are made 
into goblets ; they are as big as ox-horns, as indeed the crea- 
ture itself is bigger than eight lions ; of its feathers are made 
strong bows, arrows, and lances. 3 With regard to this descrip- 
tion, it is to be observed that the horns, cut in slices, are really 
used for plating bows ; 4 but the bird's quills, as they are still 
considered to be in the country where they are found, are the 
leg-bones of other animals. 5 The rhinoceros horns, supposed 

1 Herod., iii. 116. Erman, Reise, vol. i. pp. 711-2. 

2 Ctesias, c De Rebus Indicis,' 12. 

3 Klemni, C. G\, vol. i. p. 155, and see p. 101. 

4 Olfers, p. 12. 5 Erman, vol. i. p. 711. 


to be griffins' claws, were mounted in gold and silver in Eu- 
rope in the middle ages, and preserved as relics in churches. 
There is or was one in Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, 
mounted on little gilt claws, which sufficiently show what it 
was thought to be. 

The Chinese idea that the mammoth was a huge rat, and the 
very name of " Mother of Mice" given to it, fit curiously with 
a set of North American stories, which may have a like origin 
in the finding of fossil remains of enormous size. The name of 
the " Pere aux Bceufs," probably the translation of a native 
Indian name, was given to an extinct animal whose huge bones 
were found on the banks of the Ohio. 1 The Indians of New 
France, Father Paul le Jeune relates in 1635, " say besides, that 
all the animals of each species have an elder brother, who is as 
the beginning and origin of all the race, and this elder brother 
is marvellously great and powerful. The elder brother of the 
beavers, they told me, is perhaps as big as our hut." 2 There 
are current among the Iroquois, says Morgan, fables of a buf- 
falo of such huge dimensions as to thresh down the forest in 
his march. 8 And lastly, in one of the North American tales 
of the Sun-Catcher, we find a creature to which the name of 
u Mother of Mice" may well belong. When the Sun was to be 
set free from the snare, the animals debated who should go up 
and sever the cord, and the dormouse went, "for at this time 
the dormouse was the largest animal in the world; when it 
stood up>it looked like a mountain." The whole story, which 
goes on to tell how it has come to pass that the dormice are 
but small creatures now, is given here in the next chapter. 

The native tribes of the lower end of South America ex- 
plained the reason why they, unlike the Spaniards, had no 
herds of cattle in their country, by an interesting story, which 
has the air of a myth of observation founded upon the exami- 
nation of caves containing fossil bones. They had a multipli- 
city of inferior deities below the two great powers of Good and 
Evil, who, there as elsewhere on the American continent, are 

1 Buffon, Hist. Nat. (ed. Sonnini), vol. xxviii. p. 264. 

2 Le Jeune, Relations (1634), vol. i. p. 46. 
s Morgan, p. 166. 


above all. Each of the lower deities presides over one parti- 
cular caste or family of Indians, of which he is supposed to have 
been the creator. " Some make themselves of the caste of the 
tiger, some of the lion, some of the guanaco, and others of the 
ostrich, etc. They imagine that these deities have each their 
separate habitations, in vast caverns under the earth, beneath 
some lake, hill, etc.; and that when an Indian dies, his soul 
goes to live with the deity who presides over his particular 
family, there to enjoy the happiness of being eternally drunk. 
They believe that their good deities made the world, and that 
they first created the Indians in their caves, gave them the 
lance, the bow and arrows, and the stone-bowls, to fight and 
hunt with, and then turned them out to shift for themselves. 
They imagine that the deities of the Spaniards did the same 
by them; but that, instead of lances, bows, etc., they gave 
them guns and swords. They suppose that when the beasts, 
birds, and lesser animals were created, those of the more nim- 
ble kind came immediately out of their caves; but that the 
bulls and cows being the last, the Indians were so frightened 
at the sight of their horns, that they stopped up the entrance 
of their caves with great stones. This is the reason they give 
why they had no black cattle in their country till the Spaniards 
brought them over, who more wisely had let them out of the 
caves. " 1 

The possibility that the Brazilian belief in the caypor or 
wild ape-like being of the woods may be derived from a re- 
collection of a great extinct ape has been already mentioned, 
but there is a circumstance which rather favours the idea of 
its being a myth, founded on the examination of fossil bones. 
Like the mammoth, and the mastodon, and the creators of the 
beasts and birds, he is thought to live underground. " They 
believe he has subterranean campos and hunting grounds in 
the forest, well stocked with pacas and deer." 2 It is possible, 
too, that the notion of subterranean animals, who die if they 
see the daylight, like the mammoths of Siberia, may be traced 
in various stories. Thus, the Fijians tell a tale of two rocks, 

1 Thos. Falkner, 'A Description of Patagonia,' etc.; Hereford, 1774, p. 114. 

2 Bates, vol. ii. p. 204. 


male and female Lado, which are two deities who were turned 
by the sight of daylight into stone j 1 and ^n the West Indies 
there were men who dwelt in Cimmerian darkness in their 
caves, and coming out were turned into stones and trees by 
the sight of the sun. 2 

Tales of giants and monsters, which stand in direct con- 
nexion with the finding of great fossil bones, are scattered 
broadcast over the mythology of the world. Huge bones, 
found at Punto Santa Elena, in the north of Guayaquil, have 
served as a foundation for the story of a colony of giants who 
dwelt there. 3 The whole area of the Pampas is a great sepul- 
chre of enormous extinct animals ; no wonder that one great 
plain should be called the " Field of the Giants," and that such 
names as " the hill of the giant," " the stream of the animal," 
should be guides to the geologist in his search for fossil 
bones. 4 

In North America it is the same. The fossil bones of 
Mexico are referred to the giants who dwelt in the land in 
early times, and were found living in the plains of Tlascala by 
the Olmecs, who came there before the Toltecs. At the time 
of the conquest, Bernal Diaz was told of their huge stature 
and their crimes ; and, to show him how big they were, the 
people brought him a bone of one of them, which he measured 
himself against, and it was as tall as he, who was a man of rea- 
sonable stature. He and his companions were astonished to 
see those bones, and held it for certain that there had been 
giants in that land. 5 The Indians of North America tell how 
their mythic hero, Manabozho, " killed the ancient monsters 
whose bones we now see under the earth." They use pieces 
of the bones of these monsters as charms, and most likely the 
pieces of bone drawn in their pictures as instruments of magic 
power are such. They tell of giants who could stride over the 

1 Seemann, ' Viti,' p. 66. 2 Oviedo, in Purchas, vol. v. p. 959. 

3 Humboldt, Vues des Cord., pi. 26. Eivero and Tschudi, Ant. Per. p. 51. 

4 Darwin, in Narr., voljii. p. 155. 

5 Bernal Diaz, Conq. de la Nueva Espafia; Madrid, 1795, vol. i. p. 350. 
Tylor, ' Mexico,' p. 236. Clavigero, vol. i. p. 125. Humboldt, Vues des Cord., 
pi. 26. 


largest rivers, and the tallest pine-trees. The Winnebagos say 
their monstrous medicine animal still exists, and they have 
pieces of the bones which belong to them, which they use as 
charms. The Dacotas use such bones for " medicine," and say 
they belong to the great horned water-beast, the Unk-a-ta-he. 
Hiawatha helped the Indians to subdue the great monsters that 
overran the country. The "Tom Thumb" of the Chippewas 
killed the giants, and hacked them into little pieces, saying, 
" Henceforth let no man be larger than you are now," and so 
men became of their present size. 1 There are plenty more 
such stories. One mentioned by Dr. Wilson has the interest- 
ing feature that monsters and giants both perished by the 
thunderbolts of the Great Spirit, and in another all the mon- 
sters were thus slain except the Big Bull, who went off to the 
Great Lakes. 2 It must be borne in mind, however, that in spe- 
culating on the origin of tales such as these, possible recollec- 
tions of contests of men with huge animals now extinct must 
be taken into consideration, as well as inferences from the 
finding of large bones, and sometimes even both causes may 
have worked together. 

In the Old World, myths both old and new connected with 
huge bones, fossil or recent, are common enough. 3 Marcus 
Scaurus brought to Rome, from Joppa, the bones of the mon- 
ster who was to have devoured Andromeda, while the vestiges 
of the chains which bound her were to be seen there on the 
rock ; 4 and the sepulchre of Antasus, containing his skeleton, 
60 cubits long, was found in Mauritania. 5 

Don Quixote was beforehand with Dr. Falconer in reasoning 
on the huge fossil bones so common in Sicily as remains of 
ancient inhabitants, as appears from his answer to the barber's 
question, how big he thought the giant Morgante might have 
been? "... Moreover, in the island of Sicily there have 
been found long-bones and shoulder-bones so huge, that their 
size manifests their owners to have been giants, and as big as 

1 Schoolcraft, part i. pp. 319, 390 ; part ii. pp. 175, 224 ; part iii. pp. 232, 315, 
319. 2 Wilson, 'Prehistoric Man,' vol. i. p. 112. 

3 In Polynesia, see Mariner, vol. i. p. 313. 

4 Plin., ix. 4 ; v. 14. 5 Strabo, xvii. 3, 8. 


great towers, for this truth geometry sets beyond doubt." 
Again, the fossil bones so plentifully strewed over the Sewalik, 
or lowest ranges of the Himalayas, belonged to the slain Ra- 
kis, 1 the gigantic Rakshasas of the Indian mythology. The 
remains of the Dun Cow that Guy Earl of Warwick slew are 
or were to be seen in England, in the shape of a whale's rib 
in the church of St. Mary Redcliffe, and some great fossil bone 
kept, I believe, in Warwick Castle. " The giant sixteen feet 
high, whose bones were found in 1577 near Reyden under an 
uprooted oak, and examined and celebrated in song by Felix 
Plater, the renowned physician of Basle, has been long ago 
banished by later naturalists into a very distant department of 
zoology ; but the giant has from that time forth got a firm 
standing-ground beside the arms of Lucerne, and will keep it, 
all critics to the contrary notwithstanding/' 2 

It would be tedious to enumerate more instances in which 
traditions of giants and huge beasts have been formed both in 
ancient and modern times from the finding of great fossil 
bones. But the remarks of St. Augustine on a great fossil 
tooth he saw are worthy of attention, as throwing some light 
on the connexion of such bones with the belief that man was 
once both enormously larger and longer-lived than he is now, 
and that his stature has diminished in the course of ages to its 
present dimensions ; as it is held by the Moslems that Adam 
was sixty feet high, of the measure of a tall palm-tree, and 
that the true believers will be restored in Paradise to this ori- 
ginal stature of the human race, and that the houris who will 
attend them will be of proportionate dimensions. It seems as 
if Linnaeus may have held such an opinion, at least his editor 
gives the following as his reading of a passage in the notes of 
his northern tour, where unfortunately the original is obscure. 
" I have a notion that Adam and Eve were giants, and that 
mankind from one generation to another, owing to poverty and 
other causes, have diminished in size. Hence perhaps the di- 
minutive stature of the Laplanders." 3 

St. Augustine's observations are contained in his chapter 

1 Torrens, 'Ladak,' etc., p. 87- 2 Olfers, p. 3. 

3 Linnaeus, ' Tour,' vol. i. p. 28. 


" Concerning the long life of men before the flood,, and the 
greater size of their bodies." He makes these remarks, he 
says, in case any infidel should raise a doubt about men having 
lived to so great an age. " So some indeed do not believe that 
men's bodies were formerly much greater than now." Virgil, 
he continues, expresses the huge size of the men of former 
times, how much more then in the younger periods of the 
world, before the celebrated deluge. " But concerning the 
magnitude of their bodies, the graves laid bare by age or the 
force of rivers and various accidents especially convict the in- 
credulous, where they have come to light, or where bones of 
the dead of incredible magnitude have fallen. I have seen, 
and not I alone, on the shore by Utica, so huge a molar tooth 
of a man, that were it cut up into small models of teeth like 
ours, it would seem enough to make a hundred of them. But 
this I should think had belonge to some giant; for beside 
that the bodies of all men were then much larger than ours, 
the giants again far exceeded the rest." 1 

Among the traditions preserved from remote ages by the 
human race, there are perhaps none more important to the 
ethnologist than those which relate, in every great district of 
the world, and with so much unity combined with so much 
variety, the occurrence of a great Deluge in long past time. 
In studying these Diluvial Traditions it is of the highest con- 
sequence that he should be able to separate the results of the 
memory of real events from those of observation of natural 
phenomena and of purely mythological development. Hum- 
boldt in part states the problem in his remarks on the four 
devastations of the earth, by famine, fire, hurricane, and de- 
luge, as represented in the Mexican picture-writing. " What- 
ever may be their true origin, it does not appear less certain 
that they are fictions of astronomical mythology, modified 
either by a dim remembrance of some great revolution which 
our planet has undergone, or in accordance with the physical 
and geological hypotheses to which the appearance of marine 
petrifactions and fossil bones give rise, even among peoples at 
the greatest distance from civilization." 2 

1 Aug., ' De Civitate Dei,' xv. 9. 2 Humboldt, Vues des Cord., pi. 26. 


That the observation of shells and corals in places above the 
level of the sea, and even on high mountains, should have given 
rise to legends of great floods which deposited them there, is 
natural enough, and quite consistent with the growth of myths 
of monsters and giants from the observation of fossil bones. 
Marine productions being found at heights of many hundred 
feet above the sea, the question would evidently occur to the 
men who speculated so ingeniously about the fossil bones, how 
did these productions of the sea get upon the mountains ? As 
to fossil crustaceans, the Arabian geographer Abu-Zeyd ex- 
plains their appearance in Ceylon by setting them down as 
sea-animals like craw-fish, which, when they come out of the 
sea, are converted into stone, 1 but the appearance of sea- shells 
on mountains could hardly be so accounted for. Two alterna- 
tives suggest themselves to explain the occurrence of shells 
in such situations ; either the sea may have been up to the 
mountain, or the mountain may have been down in the sea. 
Modern geologists have in most cases to adopt the' latter alter- 
native, but till recent times the former was oftener than not 
held to be the more probable. Water is the type of all that is 
movable, fluctuating, unstable, while the firm earth is immov- 
able, permanent, solid, and it is not to the purpose to argue 
that modern knowledge has reversed this older view, with so 
many other doctrines which seemed to rest on the plain evi- 
dence of the senses, and only failed, as many of our own theo- 
ries have no doubt to fail, from the narrowness of their range 
of observation. 

The fossils imbedded in high ground have been appealed to, 
both in ancient and modern times, both by savages and civi- 
lized men, as evidence in support of their traditions of a flood, 
and moreover the argument, apparently unconnected with any 
tradition, is to be found, that because there are marine fossils 
in places away from the sea, therefore the sea must once have 
been there. In the Society Islands, tradition tells how a flood 
that rose over the tops of the mountains, was raised by the 
sea-god Ruahatu. A fisherman caught his hooks in the hair or 
the god as he lay sleeping among his coral groves, and woke 
1 Tennent, ' Ceylon,' vol. i. p. 14. 


him, but, strange to say, though in his anger he drowned the 
rest of the inhabitants of the land in the deluge, he allowed 
the fisherman himself to find safe refuge with his wife and child 
on a small, low, coral island close to Raiatea, and they re- 
peopled the earth. How the little island was preserved they 
give no account, but they appeal to the farero, coral, and shells, 
found at the tops of the highest mountains, as proof of the 
inundation. 1 In Samoa it is the universal belief that of old 
the fish swam where the land now is, and tradition adds that 
when the waters abated, many of the fish of the sea were left 
on the land, and afterwards were changed into stones. Hence, 
they say, there are stones in abundance in the bush and among 
the mountains, which were once sharks, and other inhabit- 
ants of the deep. 3 In the Norfch the Moravian missionary 
Cranz records that, " The first missionaries found among the 
Greenlanders a tolerably distinct tradition of the Deluge, of 
which almost all heathen nations still know something, namely, 
that the world was once tilted over (umgekantert) and all men 
were drowned, but some became fire- spirits. The only man 
who remained alive, smote afterwards with his stick upon the 
ground, and there came out a woman, with whom he peopled 
the earth again. They tell, moreover, that far up in the coun- 
try, where men could never have dwelt, there are found all 
sorts of remains of fishes, and even bones of whales on a high 
mountain ; wherefrom they make it clear that the earth was 
once flooded." 3 It is interesting to compare this argument 
with the explanation the Kamchadals give of the bones of 
whales, which in their country also are found on high moun- 
tains. They fear all high mountains, says Steller, especially 
volcanos, and also hot springs, and believe that some moun- 
tains are the abodes of spirits. " When one asks them what 
the devils do up there, they reply, ( they cook whales/ I 
asked, where they got them ? The answer was, they go down 
to the sea at night and catch so many, that one brings home 
five to ten of them, one hanging to each finger. When I asked, 
how do you know this ? they said their Starihi or old people 

1 Ellis, Polyn. Kes., vol. ii. p. 58. 2 Turner, 'Polynesia,' p. 249. 

3 Cranz, p. 262. 


had always said so and believed it themselves. Withal they 
appealed to the observation, that there were many bones of 
whales found on all burning mountains. I asked whence come 
the flames there sometimes, and they answered, when the 
spirits have heated up their mountains as we do our yurts, they 
fling the rest of the brands out up the chimney, so as to be 
able to shut up. They said moreover, God in heaven some- 
times does so too at the time when it is our summer and his 
winter, and he warms up his yurt ; whereby they explain the 
veneration of the lightning." 1 

In the geological theories of classical times, the inference 
from fossil shells found inland, high or low above the sea level, 
was commonly that the sea had once been there, though it need 
not always follow that it was the sea which had since changed 
its level. Herodotus argues from the shells on the mountains 
in Egypt, 2 and Xanthus from the fossil shells, like cockles and 
scallops, which he had seen far from the sea, that there had 
been sea in old times where the land had since been left dry. 
Eratosthenes notices the existence of quantities of oyster-shells 
and bits of wreck of seagoing ships near the temple of Ammon, 
far inland in Libya, while Strato expresses the opinion that 
this temple was once close to the sea, though since thrown 
inland by the retiring of the waters. 3 Describing the region 
of Numidia farther west, Pomponius Mela relates that, " In- 
land and far enough from the coast (if the thing be credible) 
they tell that in a wondrous way the spines of fish, and frag- 
ments of murex and oyster-shells, stones worn in the ordinary 
manner by the waves and not differing from those of the sea, 
anchors fixed in the rocks, and other similar signs and vestiges 
of the sea that once spread to those places, exist and are found 
on the barren plains." 4 So Ovid says in his remarkable state- 
ment of the Pythagorean doctrines, — 

" Et procul a pelago conchas jacuere marinae 
Et vetus inventa est in montibus anchora summis," 

and argues thence that sea has been converted into land. 5 

1 Steller, p. 47. 2 Herod., ii. 12. 3 Strabo, i. 3, 4. 

4 Mela, i. c. 6. 5 Ov. Met., xv. 264. 


In the Chinese Encyclopaedia from which I have already- 
quoted two remarkable passages, an account is to be found 
bearing on the present subject. "Eastern Tartary. — In tra- 
velling from the shore of the Eastern Sea toward Che-lu, 
neither brooks nor ponds are met with in the country, although 
it is intersected by mountains and valleys. Nevertheless there 
are found in the sand, very far away from the sea, oyster- shells 
and the shields of crabs. The tradition of the Mongols who 
inhabit the country is that it has been said from time immemo- 
rial that in remote antiquity the waters of the deluge flooded 
the district, and when they retired, the places where they had 
been made their appearance covered with sand. . . . However 
it may have happened, to follow the great geographer Ti-chi, a 
part of this country is in great plains, where several hundred 
leagues are found to have been covered by the waters and since 
abandoned ; thi3 is why these deserts are called the Sandy Sea, 
which indicates that they were not originally covered with sand 
and gravel." 1 

Again, the presence of fossil shells on high mountains has 
long been adduced as evidence of the Noachic flood. Thus 
Tertullian connects the sea- shells on mountains with the reap- 
pearance of the earth from below the waters, 2 and the argu- 
ment may be followed up through later times, and was current 
in England till quite recently. In the ninth edition of Home's 
' Introduction to the Scriptures/ published in 1846, the evi- 
dence of fossils is confidently held to prove the universality of 
the Deluge ; but the argument disappears from the next edi- 
tion, published ten years later. 

To the statements of classical writers as to anchors and- 
pieces of wreck being found inland, some more modern ac- 
counts must be added. From time to time, whether from up- 
heaval of the earth's surface or other geological changes, ships 
and things belonging to them have been found far inland, in 
places for ages out of reach of navigable waters. Buffon speaks 
of fragments of vessels being found in a mountain lake in Por- 
tugal, far from the sea, and mentions a statement of Sabinus, 

1 Mem. cone, les Chinois, vol. iv. p. 474. Klemm, C. Gk, vol. vi. p. 467. 

2 Tert., ' De Pallio,' ii. H. F. Link, 'Die Urwelt,' etc. ; Berlin, 1821, p. 4. 



in his commentary on the lines just quoted from Ovid, that in 
the year 1460 a vessel was found with its anchors, in a mine in 
the Alps. 1 This is, no doubt, the same story that Antonio 
Galvano refers to, when he says, " Thus they tell of finding 
hulls of ships and iron anchors in the mountains of Switzerland 
very far inland, where it appears that there was never sea nor 
salt water." 2 

The possible bearing of such phenomena on the formation of 
diluvial traditions is clearly shown by their having been repeat- 
edly claimed, like the fossil shells, as evidence of the former 
presence of the sea, and even of the Biblical deluge. It is 
not, however, necessary, from this point of view, that the ac- 
counts in question should all be true ; it is enough that they 
should be believed and reasoned upon. In the seventeenth 
century, Fray Pedro Simon relates that some miners, running 
an adit into a hill near Callao, " met with a ship which had on 
top of it the great mass of the hill, and did not agree in its 
make and appearance 'with our ships," whence people judged 
that it had been left there by the Flood, and the fact is cited in 
proof of the habitation of the country in antediluvian times. 3 
Writing in 1730, Strahlenberg gives it as his opinion that the 
mammoth bones in Siberia are relics of the Deluge, and goes 
on to add a like example, that some thirty years earlier the 
whole lower hull of a ship with a keel was found in Barabinsk 
Tartary, where nevertheless there is no ocean. 4 Lastly, in 
Scotland it is quite a common thing for ancient canoes hol- 
lowed from a single tree to be found buried in places remote 
from navigable channels, while the skeletons of whales are 
found in similar situations. Sir John Clerk thus remarks upon 
a canoe found near Edinburgh in 1726. " The washings of the 
river Carron discovered a boat, 13 or 14 feet underground ; it 
is 36 feet in length, and 4| in breadth, all of one piece of oak. 
There were several strata above it, such as loam, clay, shells, 

1 Buffon, c Theorie de la Terre,' vol. iii. p. 119. 

2 Galvano, p. 26. 

3 Simon, ' Noticias Historiales,' etc. ; Cuenca, 1627, p. 31. 

4 Strahlenberg, ' Das Nord- und Ostliche Theil von Europa und Asien ;' Stock- 
holm, 1730, p. 396. C. Hamilton Smith, p. 45. 


moss, sand, and gravel; these strata demonstrate it to have 
been an antediluvian boat." 1 

Both in Scotland and in South America, upheaval of land in 
more or less modern times is a recognized fact, and the finding 
of boats, as of various other productions of human art, in places 
where they could hardly have been placed by man, is readily 
accounted for between this upheaval and the effects of ordinary 
accumulation and degradation. 

Geological evidence bearing on traditions of a Deluge is 
scarce. Sir Charles Lyell seems disposed to adopt the view of 
old writers that some of the South American deluge traditions 
are connected with the memory of local floods, such as are 
known to happen there. Dr. Szabo says that the Hungarians 
still preserve traditions of their plains having been once co- 
vered by a freshwater sea, the waters of which afterwards 
escaped through the narrows of the Iron Gate. The draining of 
the country in this manner is considered by Dr. Szabo as hav- 
ing really happened, so that this may be a case of tradition 
handing down the memory of a geological change from a very 
remote period. 2 It would require a large body of scientific 
evidence of this character to make possible a thorough investi- 
gation of the Diluvial traditions of the world, and any attempt 
to draw a distinct line between the claims of History and My- 
thology must in the meantime be premature. 

It fortunately happens that the difficulty in analysing the 
Diluvial traditions into their historical and mythological ele- 
ments is one which only partially affects their use to Ethnology. 
Were they merely stories current in various parts of the world, 
saying little more than that there was once a great flood, or 
giving details only harmonizing within limited districts, they 
might be explained as Myths of Observation which had not ne- 
cessarily any common origin. There are some which, taken 
by themselves, could not stand against this argument, but the 
general state of things found over the world is widely different 
from this. The notion of men having existed before the flood, 
and having been all destroyed except a few who escaped and 

1 Bibl. Topog. Brit. ; London, 1790, yol. iii. part i. p. 241. Wilson, • Archaeo- 
logy, etc. of Scotland,' p. 32. 2 G-eol. Journal, Feb. 1863. 

Y 2 


re-peopled the earth, does not flow so immediately from the 
observation of natural phenomena that we can easily suppose 
it to have originated several times independently in such a way, 
yet this is a feature common to the great mass of flood traditions. 
Still more strongly does this argument apply to the occurrence 
f some form of raft, ark, or canoe, in which the survivors are 
usually saved, unless, as in some cases, they take refuge di- 
rectly on the top of some mountain which the waters never 
cover. The idea is indeed conceivable, if somewhat far-fetched, 
that from the sight of a boat found high on a mountain there 
might grow a story of the flood which carried it there, while 
the people in it escaped to found a new race. But it lies out- 
side all reasonable probability to suppose such circumstances 
to have produced the same story in several different places, nor 
is it very likely that the dim remembrances of a number of local 
floods should accord in this with the amount of consistency that 
is found among the flood-traditions of remote regions of the 
world. The occurrence of an ark in the traditions of a deluge, 
found in so many distant times and places, seems to entitle 
them to be received as derived from a single source, and thus 
forming part of the mass of evidence from art, custom, and be- 
lief, which supports the theory of a deep-lying historical con- 
nexion of the mental development of fche whole human race. 

As to Myths of Observation in general, the line of demar- 
cation which separates them on the one hand from traditions of 
real events, and on the other from more purely mythic tales, 
is equally hard to draw. Even the stories which have their 
origin in a mere realized metaphor, or a personification of the 
phenomena of nature, will attach themselves to real persons, 
places, or objects, as strongly as though they actually belonged 
to them. To the subjective mind of the myth maker, every 
hill and valley, every stone and tree, that strikes his attention, 
becomes the place where some mythic occurrence happened 
to gods, or heroes, or fair women, or monsters, or ethereal 
beings. When once the tale is made, the rock or tree becomes 
evidence of its truth to future generations: "the bricks are 
alive at this day to testify it ; therefore, deny it not." 




The student of the early History of Mankind finds in Com- 
parative Mythology the same use and the same difficulty which 
lie before him in so many other branches of his subject. He 
can sometimes show, in the mythical tales current among 
several peoples, coincidences so quaint, so minute, or so com- 
plex, that they could hardly have arisen independently in two 
places, and these coincidences he claims as proofs of historical 
connexion between the tribes or nations among whom they 
are found. But his great difficulty is how to be sure that he 
is not interpreting as historical evidence analogies which may 
be nothing more than the results of the like working of the 
human mind under like conditions. His ever- recurring pro- 
blem is to classify the crowd of resemblances which are con- 
tinually thrusting themselves upon him, so as to keep those 
things which are merely similar apart from those which, having 
at some spot of the earth's surface their common source and 
centre of diffusion, are really and historically united. 

No attempt is made in the present chapter to lay down de- 
finite rules for the solution of this important problem, but a 
few illustrations are given of the more general analogies run- 
ning through the Folk-lore of the world, which Ethnology, for 
the present at least, has to set aside ; and then a few facts are 
stated, bearing on the diffusion of Myths by recognized chan- 
nels of intercourse, with the view of introducing a group of 
similar episodes, which it is for the reader to reject as caused 


by independent growth or modern transmission, or to accept 
as a contribution to the early History of the New World. 

Firstly, then, there are found among savage tribes myths 
like in their character, and therefore no doubt in their origin, 
to those of the great Aryan race which have in our own times 
been so successfully traced to the very point where they arose 
out of the contemplation of nature. No one has yet done for 
the myths of the lowest tribes what has been done for those 
of our more highly developed race by Kuhn and Muller, and 
their school in Germany and England ; but Schirren, by his 
treatment of the gods and mythic ancestors of the South Sea 
Islanders as personifications of the phenomena of nature, has 
made an important step toward extending the modern method 
of interpretation to the Mythology of the World. 1 Still, a very 
slight acquaintance with the popular tales of America, Poly- 
nesia, even Australia and Van Diemen's Land, will show that 
they are the same in their nature and often in their incidents, 
by virtue of the like nature of the minds which conceived them. 

As Zeus, the personified Heaven of our own race, drops 
tears on earth which mortals call rain, so does the heaven-god 
of Tahiti ; 

" Thickly falls the small rain on the face of the sea, 
They are not drops of rain, but they are tears of Oro." 2 

In the dark patches on the face of the moon, the Singhalese 
sees the pious hare that offered itself to Buddha to be cooked 
and eaten, when he was wandering hungry in the forest. The 
Northman saw there the two children whom Maui the Moon 
caught up, as they were taking the water from the well Byrgir, 
and who are carrying the bucket on the pole between them 
to this day. Elsewhere in Europe, Isaac has been seen carry- 
ing the bundle of wood up Mount Moriah for his own sacrifice, 
and Cain bringing from his field a load of thorns as his offering 
to Jehovah. Our own " Man in the Moon M was set up there 
for picking sticks on a Sunday, and he, too, carries his thorn- 
bush, as Caliban had seen, u I have seen thee in her, and 1 do 

1 Schirren, ' Die Wandersagen der Neuseelander und der Mauimythosj' Eiga, 
1856. 2 Ellis, Polyn. Ees., vol. i. p. 531. 


adore thee ; my mistress showed me thee, thy dog, and bush." 
In the Samoan Islands in the Central Pacific, the dweller in 
the moon is a woman. Her name was Sina, and she was beat- 
ing out paper-cloth with a mallet. The moon was just rising, 
and looked like a great bread-fruit, so Sina asked her to come 
down and let her child have a bit of her. But the moon was 
very angry at the idea of being eaten, and took up Sina, child, 
and mallet and all, and there they are to be seen to this day. 1 

The heavenly bodies are gods and heroes, and tales of their 
deeds in love and arms are found among the lower as among 
the higher races. Apollo and Artemis, Helios and Selene, are 
brother and sister, and so in the Polar Regions the Sun is a 
maiden and the Moon her brother. The Esquimaux tale tells 
how, when the girl was at a festive gathering, some one de- 
clared his love for her by shaking her by the shoulders, after 
the manner of the country. She could not tell who it was in 
the dark hut, so she smeared her hand with soot, and when he 
came back, she blackened his face with her hand. When a 
light was brought, she saw it was her brother, and fled, and he 
rushed after her. She came to the end of the earth and sprang 
out into the sky, and he followed her. There they became the 
Sun and Moon, and this is why the moon is always chasing 
the sun through the heavens ; and the moon is sometimes dark 
as he turns his blackened cheek toward the earth. 2 

The natives of Van Diem en's Land, whose .dismal history is 
now closing in total extinction, are among the lowest tribes 
known to Ethnology. Yet to them, as to higher races, the 
idea is familiar that the stars are men, or beings of a higher 
order who have appeared as men on earth. Their myth of the 
two heroes who are now the twin stars Castor and Pollux, is 
thus told by Milligan, as related by a native of the Oyster Bay 
Tribe ; 

" My father, my grandfather, all of them lived a long time 
ago, all over the country ; they had no fire. Two black-fellows 
came, they slept at the foot of a hill, — a hill in my own coun- 
try. On the summit of a hill they were seen by my fathers, 

1 Grimm, D. M., pp. 679-83. Turner, p. 247. See Mariner, vol. ii. p. 127. 

2 Hayes, ' Arctic Boat Journey,' p. 253. A different version in Cranz, p. 295. 


my countrymen, on the top of the hill they were seen standing : 
they threw fire like a star, — it fell amongst the blackmen, my 
countrymen. They were frightened, — they fled away, all of 
them ; after a while they returned, they hastened and made a 
fire, — a fire with wood ; no more was fire was lost in our land. 
The two black-fellows are in the clouds ; in the clear night you 
see them like two stars. 1 These are they who brought fire to 
my fathers. 

The two blackmen staid awhile in the land of my fathers. 
Two women were bathing ; it was near a rocky shore, where 
mussels were plentiful. The women were sulky, they were 
sad ; their husbands were faithless, they had gone with two 
girls. The women were lonely ; they were swimming in the 
water, they were diving for cray-fish. A sting-ray lay concealed 
in the hollow of a rock, — a large sting-ray ! The sting-ray was 
large, he had a very long spear ; from his hole he spied the 
women, he saw them dive : he pierced them with his spear, — 
he killed them, he carried them away. Awhile they were 
gone out of sight. The sting-ray returned, he came close to 
the shore, he lay in still water, near the sandy beach; with 
him were the women, they were fast on his spear, — they were 

The two blackmen fought the sting-ray; they slew him 
with their spears ; they killed him ; — the women were dead ! 
The two blackmen made a fire, — a fire of wood. On either 
side they laid a woman, — the fire was between : the women 
were dead ! 

The blackmen sought some ants, some large blue ants ; 
they placed them on the bosoms of the women. Severely, in- 
tensely were they bitten. The women revived, — they lived 
once more. 

Soon there came a fog, a fog dark as night. The two black- 
men went away, the women disappeared : they passed through 
the fog, the thick dark fog ! Their place is in the clouds. 
Two stars you see in the clear cold night ; the two blackmen 
are there, — the women are with them : they are stars above." 2 

1 Castor and Pollux. 

2 Milligan, Papers, etc., of E. Soc. of Tasmania, vol. iii. part ii. 1859, p. 274. 


It is not needful to accumulate great masses of such tales as 
these, in order to show that the myth-making faculty belongs 
to mankind in general, and manifests itself in the most distant 
regions, where its unity of principle developes itself in endless 
variety of form. There may indeed be a remote historical con- 
nexion at the root of some of the analogies in myths from far 
distant regions, which have just been mentioned; but when 
resemblances in Mythology are brought forward as proofs of 
such historical connexion, they must be closer and deeper than 
these. Mythological evidence, to be used for such a purpose, 
requires a systematic agreement in the putting together of a 
number of events or ideas, which agreement must be so close 
as to make it in a high degree improbable that two such com- 
binations should have occurred separately, or at least the tales 
or ideas found alike in distant regions must be of so quaint and 
fantastic a character as to make it, on the very face of the 
matter, unlikely that they should have been invented twice. 
But it is both easier and safer to appeal to the effects of 
known intercourse between different peoples in spreading be- 
liefs and popular tales, as evidence of the way in which histo- 
rical connexion really does record itself in Mythology, than to 
lay down a priori rules as to what the effects of such connexion 
ought to be. 

When we consider how short the time is since the Indians 
of North America have been acquainted with guns, the fact that 
there has been recorded, as one of their native beliefs, the no- 
tion that there are men who have charmed lives, and can only 
be killed with a silver bullet, may prepare us for the way in 
which savages can take up foreign mythology into their own. 
Again, it might be naturally expected that Bible stories learnt 
from missionaries, settlers, and travellers, should pass in a more 
or less altered shape into the folk-lore of savage races. Moffat 
gives a good instance which happened to himself. He had 
never succeeded in finding a deluge -tradition in South Africa, 
but making inquiries in a Namaqua village, he came upon a 
somewhat intelligent native who had one to tell, so he began 
with great satisfaction to take it down in writing. By the time 
it was finished, however, he began to suspect, for it bore the 


impress of the Bible, though the Hottentot declared that he had 
received it from his forefathers, and had never seen or heard 
of a missionary. Mr. Moffat was puzzled, and suspended his 
judgment till, a little while afterwards, the mystery was un- 
ravelled by the appearance of the very missionary from whom 
the native story-teller had received his teaching. 1 As another 
case of the same kind, may be quoted the following servile 
version of the story of Joseph and his brethren, found in Ha- 
waii as the story of Waikelenuiaiku. His father had ten sons 
and one daughter ; he was beloved by his father, and hated by 
his brethren, and they threw him into a pit, but his eldest 
brother felt more compassion for him than the rest. He es- 
caped out of the pit, into the country of King Kamohoalii, and 
there he was confined in a dungeon with the prisoners. He 
bade his companions dream, and interpreted the dreams of four 
of them. One had seen a ripe banana, and his spirit ate it, the 
next dreamt of a banana, and the next of a hog, in the same 
way, but the fourth dreamt that he saw awa, that he pressed 
out the juice, and his spirit drank it. The three first dreams 
the foreigner interpreted for evil, and the dreamers were put 
to death in course of time, but to the fourth he prophesied de- 
liverance and life, and he was saved, and told the King, who 
set Waikelenuiaiku at liberty, and made him a principal chief 
in the kingdom. 2 

There is sometimes a crudeness about these tales adopted 
from foreign sources, which gives us the means of positively 
condemning them. But the power which myths have of tak- 
ing root the moment they are transplanted into a new country, 
often makes it impossible to tell whether they are of old date 
and historical value, or mere modern intruders. There is rea- 
son to believe that a story carried into a distant place by civi- 
lized men may spread and accommodate itself to the circum- 
stances of the country, so that in a very few years' time it 
may be quite honestly collected as a genuine native tale, even 
by the very people who originally introduced it, like the farmer's 
hack that he sold in the morning, and bought back in the af- 

1 Moffat, 'Missionary Labours, etc., in S. Africa;' London, 1842, p. 126. 

2 Hopkins, ' Hawaii ;' London, 1862, p. 67. 


ternoon with a fresh mane and tail, as a new horse. Of course 
this is the same kind of diffusion of myths which has been 
going on from remote ages among mankind, one of the very- 
processes which have preserved to Ethnology aids of such high 
importance for the reconstruction of early history. It is only 
unfortunate that its results in modern times, by confounding 
the evidence of early and late intercourse between different 
peoples, have done so much to impair its historical value. 

Among the stories found in circulation among outlying races, 
there are many, beside those relating to a Deluge, which appear 
to be really united by ancient and deep-lying bonds of con- 
nexion with Biblical episodes, and the extreme difficulty, or 
impossibility, of separating a great part of these ancient stories 
from those which have grown up in modern times under Chris- 
tian influences, is a very serious loss to early history. Still it 
is better to submit to this, than to base Ethnological arguments 
on evidence that will not bear the test of criticism. It is not 
only to Scriptural stories that this objection lies. Episodes 
from the classics and other European sources may be carried 
into distant lands by colonists and missionaries, and it may be 
laid down as a general rule, that stories which may have been 
transplanted in this way in modern times, must be rejected as 
independent evidence of remote intercourse between distant 
races among whom they are found. It is when a connexion 
between two peoples has been already made probable by evi- 
dence not liable to be thus impeached, that these stories can be 
taken into consideration as secondary evidence, which, once 
proved to be safe, may be of extraordinary interest and value. 

Before proceeding to the comparison of a number of Ameri- 
can myths with their analogues in the Old World, it is to be 
premised that the view of a connexion between the inhabitants 
of America and Asia by no means rests on one of those vague 
and misty theories, which have too often been allowed to pass 
current as solid Ethnological arguments. The researches of 
Alexander von Humboldt brought into view, half a century 
ago, evidence which goes with great force to prove that the 
civilization of Mexico and that of Asia have, in part at least, 
a common origin, and that therefore the population of these 


regions are united, if not by the tie of common descent and 
relationship by blood, at least by intercourse, direct or indirect, 
in past times. Of this evidence, the similarity of the chro- 
nological calendars is perhaps the strongest point. Not only 
are series of names like our signs of the zodiac used to re- 
cord periods of time, but such*series are combined together, or 
with numbers, in both countries, in a complex, perverse, and 
practically purposeless manner, which, whatever its origin, can 
hardly by any stretch of probability be supposed to have come 
up independently in the minds of two different peoples. The 
theory of the successive destructions and renovations of the 
world, at the end of long cycles of years, was pointed out by 
Humboldt as another bond of connexion between Mexico and 
the Old World ; and these agreements between North America 
and Asia can hardly be read but as indications of a deep-rooted 
connexion, which ought to have left many other traces beside 
these. Of customs, the occurrence of which in America as 
well as in the Old World would be well explained by such a 
view, something has already been said. Of the North or South 
American myths which closely resemble tales current in Asia, 
Polynesia, and elsewhere in the world, eight are discussed here, 
the World- Tortoise, the Man swallowed by the Fish, the Sun- 
Catcher, the Ascent to Heaven by the Tree, the Bridge of the 
Dead, the Fountain of Youth, the Tail-Fisher, and the Diable 

In the Old World, the Tortoise Myth belongs especially to 
India, and the idea is developed there in a variety of forms. 
The Tortoise that upholds the earth is called in Sanskrit 
Kurmaraja, " King of the Tortoises," and the Hindoos believe 
to this day that the world rests upon its back. Sometimes the 
snake Sesha bears the world on its head, or an elephant carries 
it upon its back, and both snake and elephant are themselves 
supported by the great tortoise. The earth, rescued from the 
deluge which destroys mankind, is set up with the snake that 
bears it resting on the floating tortoise, and a deluge is again to 
pour over the face of the earth when the world-tortoise, sink- 
ing under its load, goes down into the great waters. When 
the Daityas and Danavas churned the Sea of Milk to make the 


amrita, the drink of immortality, they took the mountain Man- 
dara for the churning' stick, and the serpent Yasuki was the 
thong that was wound round it, and pulled back and forwards to 
drive the churn. In the midst of the milky sea, Vishnu him- 
self, in the form of a tortoise, served as a pivot for the mountain 
as it was whirled around. 1 

The notion of the earth being itself a great tortoise swim- 
ming in the midst of the ocean, is thus described by Reinaud : — 
" According to Yaraha-Mihira, the Indians represented to 
themselves the inhabited part of the world under the form of a 
tortoise floating upon the water ; it is in this sense that they 
call the World Kaurma-chalcra, that is to say, ( the wheel of 
the tortoise/ " 2 And lastly, the ancient Yedic Books of India, 
which so often supply the means of tracing the most florid de- 
velopments of mythology back to mere simple child-like views 
of nature, present, as really existing in very early times, the 
original idea out of which the whole series of myths of the 
World-Tortoise seems to have grown. To man in the lower 
levels of science, the earth is a flat plain over which the sky is 
placed like a dome, as the arched upper shell of the tortoise 
stands upon the flat plate below, and this is why the tortoise is 
the symbol and representative of the World. The analogy of 
other conceptions of heaven and earth, as formed by the two 
halves of the shell of Brahma's Egg, or by the two calabashes 
shut together in the mythology o£ the Yorubas of Africa, 3 is 
indeed sufficient to lead us to the opinion that this was the 
original meaning of the World-Tortoise, but the following pas- 
sage from Weber will enable us to substitute fact for inference. 

1 Boehtlingk & Both, s. v. Kurma. Wilson, s. v. Kurmaraja. Coleman, p. 12. 
Vans Kennedy, * Kesearches ;' London, 1831, pp. 216, 243. Holwell, 'Historical 
Events,' etc. ; London, 1766-7, part ii. p. 109. Falconer, in Proc. Zool. Soc, 
1844, p. 86. Baldaeus, in Churchill's Voyages, vol. iii. p. 848. Wilson, ■ Vishnu 
Purana ;' London, 1840, p. 75. W. v. Humboldt (Kawi-Spr., vol. i. p. 240) says 
with reference to the Naga Padoha, the great snake on whose three horns the world 
rests, — " It seems to me not unlikely, that the idea of a world-bearing elephant lies 
at the bottom of the whole saga [of the snake, that is] and that the double mean- 
ing of Sanskrit naga, elephant and snake, has brought confusion into the story." 

3 Reinaud, ' Memoire sur l'lnde ;' Paris, 1849, p. 116. 

3 Pott, ' Anti-Kaulen ;' Lemgo, 1863, p. 68. 


" The earth is conceived in the Qatapatha Brahmana as the 
under shell (adharam kapalam) of the Tortoise Kurma, which 
represents the Triple World. The upper shell is the sky, the 
body lying between the two shells is the atmosphere (nabhas, 
antari-ksham) which connects them." 1 

There are tales to be found in the Old World that seem 
remnants of the great Indian myth of the World-Tortoise, 
which have degenerated, as myths so often do when they come 
down into an age which has quite lost the consciousness of their 
meaning, into mere wonder-tales. It is related in the first 
voyage of Sindbad, that he and his companions came, as they 
sailed along, to an island like one of the gardens of Paradise, 
and there they anchored the ship, and went ashore, and lighted 
fires to cook food. But the island was a great fish, on whose 
back sand had accumulated, and trees had grown from times 
of old, and when it felt the fire on its back, it moved and went 
down to the bottom of the sea. In El-Kazwini's account of 
the animals of the water, there is a version of this story, which 
describes the creature as a huge tortoise ; " The tortoise," he 
says, " is a sea and land animal. As to the sea-tortoise, it is 
very enormous, so that the people of the ship imagine that it is 
an island. One of the merchants hath related, saying, ' We 
found in the sea an island elevated above the water, having 
upon it green plants ; and we went forth to it, and dug [holes 
for fire] to cook ; whereupon the island moved, and the sailors 
said, Come ye to your place ; for it is a tortoise, and the heat 
of the fire hath hurt it ; lest it carry you away ! — By reason of 
the enormity of its body/ saith he (i. e. the narrator above 
mentioned), s it was as though it were an island ; and earth col- 
lected upon its back in the length of time, so that it became 
like land, and produced plants/" 2 

The striking analogy between the Tortoise-myths of North 
America and India is by no means a matter of new observation ; 

1 Weber, 'Indische Studien ;' Berlin, 1850, etc., vol. i. p. 187. See also p. 81. 
I may mention having set down this conception as the probable basis of the Tor- 
toise-myths before meeting with this direct evidence from ancient India. The 
coincidence defends such an interpretation of the myths from the charge of being 
far-fetched and fanciful. 

2 Lane, « The Thousand and One Nights,' London, 1859, vol. hi. pp. 6, 79. 


it was indeed remarked upon by Father Lafitau nearly a cen- 
tury and a half ago. 1 Three great features of the Asiatic 
stories are found among the North American Indians, in the 
fullest and clearest development. The earth is supported on 
the back of a huge floating Tortoise, the Tortoise sinks under 
water and causes a deluge, and the Tortoise is conceived as 
being itself the Earth floating upon the face of the deep. 

In the last century, Loskiel, the Moravian missionary, re- 
marked of the North American Indians, that " Some imagine, 
that the earth swims in the sea, or that an enormous tortoise 
carries the world on its back." 2 Schoolcraft, an unrivalled 
authority on Indian mythology within his own district, remarks 
that the turtle is " an object held in great respect, in all Indian 
reminiscence. It is believed to be, in all cases, a symbol of 
the earth, and is addressed as a mother." In the Iroquois 
mythology, there was a woman of heaven who was called Ata- 
hentsic, and one of the six men of heaven became enamoured 
of her. When it was discovered, she was cast down to earth, 
and received on the back of a great turtle lying on the waters, 
and there she was delivered of twins. One was " The Good 
Mind," the other was " The Bad Mind," and thus the two 
great powers of the Indian dualism, the Good and Evil Prin- 
ciple, came into the world, and the tortoise expanded and be- 
came the earth, 3 or, as it is elsewhere related, the otter and the 
fishes disturbed the mud at the bottom of the ocean, and draw- 
ing it up round the tortoise, formed a small island, which, gra- 
dually increasing, became the earth. 4 Father Charlevoix gives 
two different versions of the story. In one place it is Taron- 
yawagon, the King of Heaven, who gave his wife so mighty a 
kick that she flew out of the sky and down to earth, and fell 
upon the back of a tortoise, which, cleaving the waters of the 
deluge with its feet, at last uncovered the earth, and carried 
the woman to the foot of a tree, where she was delivered of 
twin sons, and the elder, who was called Tawiskaron, killed his 
younger brother. In another place the story is like School- 
craft's. 5 Among the Mandans, Catlin found a legend which 

1 Lafitau, vol. i. p. 99. 2 Loskiel, part i. p. 30. 

3 Schoolcraft, part i. pp. 390, 316. 4 Coleman, p. 15. 

5 Charlevoix, vol. vi. pp. 146, 65. 


brings in the same notion of the World-tortoise, but shows by 
the difference of the accessory circumstances that it was not in 
America a mere part of a particular story, but a mythological 
conception which might be worked into an unlimited variety of 
myths. The tale that the Mandan doctor told Catlin, was that 
the earth was a large tortoise, that it carried dirt upon its back, 
and that a tribe of people who are now dead, and whose faces 
were white, used to dig down very deep in this ground to catch 
badgers. One day they stuck a knife through the shell of the 
tortoise, and it sank and sank till the water ran over its back, 
and they were all drowned but one man. 1 

The Myth of the World- Tortoise is one of those which have 
this great value in the comparison of Asiatic and American 
Mythology, that it leaves not the least opening for the supposi- 
tion of its having been carried by modern Europeans from the 
Old to the New World. But it is to be seen, even from the 
tales which have just been quoted, that it is mixed up in Ame- 
rica with incidents and ideas more familiar to the European 
mind ; and the stories told only with reference to the World- 
Tortoise may serve to give a glimpse into the vast ethnological 
field which lies in the Red Indian traditions, ready to be 
worked. The Deluge, Cain and Abel, Ahriman and Ormuzd, 
Romulus and Remus, all have their analogies among the le- 
gends of these wild hunters. In the story which Charlevoix 
tells just before that which I have quoted, there is Noah's 
raven and Pandora's casket. 

To proceed now to the story of the Man swallowed by the 
Fish. It is related in the Chippewa tale of the Little Monedo, 
that there was once a little boy, of tiny stature, and growing 
no bigger with years, but of monstrous strength. He had 
done before various wondrous feats, and one day he waded into 
the lake, and called " You of the red fins, come and swallow 
me." Immediately that monstrous fish came and swallowed 
him, and he, seeing his sister standing in despair on the shore, 
called out to her, and she tied an old mocassin to a string, and 
fastened it to a tree near the water's edge. The fish said to 
the boy-man under water, " What is that floating ?" The boy- 
1 Catlin, vol. i. p. 181. 


man said to the fish, " Go take hold of it, and swallow it as fast 
as you can." The fish darted towards the old shoe, and swal- 
lowed it ; the boy-man laughed to himself, but said nothing 
till the fish was fairly caught, and then he took hold of the line 
and hauled himself to shore. When the sister began to cut 
the fish open she heard her brother's voice from inside the fish, 
calling to her to let him out, so she made a hole, and he crept 
through, and told her to cut up the fish and dry it, for it would 
last them a long while for food. 1 

In the Old World, the Hindoo story of Saktideva tells that 
there was once a king's daughter who would marry no one but 
the man who had seen the Golden City, and Saktideva was in 
love with her; so he went travelling about the world seeking 
some one who could tell him where this Golden City was. In 
the course of his journeys he embarked on board a ship bound 
for the island of Utsthala, where lived the King of the Fisher- 
men, who, Saktideva hoped, would set him on his way. On 
the voyage there arose a great storm and the ship went to 
pieces, but a great fish swallowed Saktideva whole. Then, 
driven by the force of fate, the fish went to the island of Uts- 
thala, and there the servants of the King of the Fishermen 
caught it, and the King, wondering at its size, had it cut open, 
and Saktideva came out unhurt, to pass through other adven- 
tures, and at last to see the Golden City, and to marry, not the 
Princess only, but her three sisters beside. 2 

The analogy of these curious tales with the leading episode 
of the Book of Jonah is of course evident, and it might ap- 
pear as though this very ancient story were possibly the direct 
origin of one or both of them ; as regards dates, the American 
story has been but recently taken down, and even the Hindoo 
tale only comes out of a mediaeval Sanskrit collection. But 
both agree in differing from the history of Jonah, in the fish 
being cut open to let the man out. Something very like this 
occurs in the myth of the Polynesian Sun-god Maui. He was 
born on the sea- shore, and his mother flung him into the foam 
of the surf; then the seaweed wrapped its long tangles round 

1 Schoolcraft, part iii. pp. 318-20. 

2 Somadeva Bhatta, vol. ii. pp. 118-184. 


him, and the soft jelly-fish rolled themselves about him to pro- 
tect him as he was drifted on shore again, and his great an- 
cestor the Sky, Tama-nui-ki-te-Rangi, saw the flies and the 
birds collected in clusters and flocks, and ran and stripped the 
encircling jelly-fish off, and behold there lay within a human 
being ; so the old man took the child and carried it home. 1 As 
the Polynesian Maui is among the clearest and completest per- 
sonifications of the Sun, there is some force in Schirren's argu- 
ment that this story means the Sun being set free by the Sky 
at dawn, from the Earth which covers him at night f for it 
must be remembered here that one of the most prominent ideas 
of the Polynesian Mythology is that the Earth is a huge fish, 
which Maui draws up with his line from the bottom of the sea, 
and that Maui's death, the sunset, is told in the story of his 
creeping into the mouth of his great ancestress, Hine-nui-te-po, 
whom you may see flashing, and, as it were, opening and shut- 
ting, where the horizon meets the sky ; there Maui crept in, 
and perished. And not only would such an explanation of the 
tale of the Red Indian c Tom Thumb ' be a fitting one, in that 
he, like so many personifications of the Sun in other countries, 
is a slayer of Giants, but he will appear a few pages further on 
as the Sun- Catcher in a plain, open Solar myth. In any full 
discussion of the group of tales, it would be necessary to inves- 
tigate their correspondence with the European stories of Tom 
Thumb, who was swallowed by the cow and came out unhurt, 
and of Little Red Riding-Hood, who was swallowed whole by 
the wolf, and came out alive when the hunter cut him open. 3 

In the next myth, that of the Sun- Catcher, the Polynesian 
Sun-god Maui again makes his appearance. He began to 
think that it was too soon after the rising of the sun that it 
became night again, and that the sun again sank down below 
the horizon, every day, every day ; so at last he said to his 
brothers, "Let us now catch the sun in a noose, so that we 
may compel him to move more slowly, in order that mankind 
may have long days to labour in to procure subsistence for 

1 Grey, 'Polynesian Mythology,' pp. 18, 31. 

3 Schirren, pp. 143-44, 29. But the legend is very erroneously given. 

3 J. & W. Grimm, « Marchen,' vol. i. pp. 142, 198, 28. 


themselves." Then they began to spin and twist ropes to 
make a noose to catch the sun in, and thus the art of rope- 
making was discovered. And Maui took his enchanted weapon, 
which, like Samson's, was a jawbone, the jawbone of his an- 
cestress Muri-ranga-whenua, and he and his brothers travelled 
off through the desert, till they came very far, very far, to the 
eastward, to the very edge of the place out of which the sun 
rises. There they set the noose, and at last the sun came up 
and put his head and fore-paws through it ; then the brothers 
pulled the ropes tight and held him fast, and Maui rushed 
at him with his magic weapon. Alas ! the sun screams aloud, 
he roars ; Maui strikes him fiercely with many blows ; they 
hold him for a long time, at last they let him go, and then, 
weak from wounds, the sun crept slowly along its course. 1 
Another version of the story was taken down in the Samoau 
Islands. There was once a man who, like the white people, 
though it was years before pipes, muskets, or priests were 
heard of, never could be contented with what he had; pud- 
ding was not good enough for him, and he worried his family 
out of all heart with his new ways and ideas. At last he set 
to build himself a house of great stones, to last for ever ; so he 
rose early and toiled late, but the stones were so heavy and so 
far off, and the sun went round so quickly, that he could get on 
but very slowly. One evening he lay awake, and thought 
and thought, and it struck him that as the sun had but one 
road to come by, he might stop him and keep him till the 
work was done. So he rose before the dawn, and pulling out 
in his canoe as the sun rose, he threw a rope round his neck ; 
but no, the sun marched on and went his course unchecked. 
He put nets over the place where the sun rose, he used up all 
his mats to stop him, but in vain ; the sun went on, and laughed 
in hot winds at all his efforts. Meanwhile the house stood still, 
and the builder fairly despaired. At last the great Itu, who 
generally lies on his mats, and cares not at all for those he has 
made, turned round and heard his cry, and, because he was a 
good warrior, sent him help. He made the facehere creeper 
grow, and again the poor man sprang up from the ground near 
1 Grey, ' Polynesian Mythology,' pp. 35-8. 

z 2 


his house, where he had lain down in despair. He took his 
canoe and made a noose of the creeper. It was the bad season, 
when the sun is dull and heavy ; so up he came, half asleep 
and tired, nor looked about him, but put his head into the 
noose. He pulled and jerked, but Itu had made it too strong. 
The man built his house — the sun cried and cried, till the 
island of Savai was nearly drowned ; but not till the last stone 
was laid, was he suffered to resume his career. None can break 
the facehere. It is the Itu's cord. 1 

Other versions of this episode in the great Maui-myth have 
been taken down in the Pacific Islands, 2 and a like variety is 
found in the corresponding tales from North America. Among 
the Ojibwas, the Sun- Catcher is evidently the same personage 
as the Boy swallowed by the Fish in the last group of stories. 
At the time when the animals reigned in the earth, they 
had killed all but a girl and her little brother, and these two 
were living in fear and seclusion. The boy never grew bigger 
than a little child, and his sister used to take him out with her 
when she went to get food for the lodge-fire, for he was too 
little to leave alone ; a big bird might have flown away with 
him. One day she made him a bow and arrows, and told him 
to hide where she had been chopping, and when the snow- 
birds came to pick the worms out of the wood, he was to shoot 
one. That day he tried in vain to kill one, but the next, to- 
ward nightfall, she heard his little footsteps on the snow ; he 
brought in a bird, and told his sister she was to take off the 
skin and to put half the bird at a time into the pottage, for 
till then men had not begun to eat animal food, but had lived 
on vegetables alone. At last the boy had killed ten birds, and 
his sister made him a little coat of the skins. " Sister," said 
he one day, (t are we all alone in the world ? Is there nobody 
else living?" Then she told him that those they feared, and 
who had destroyed their relatives, lived in a certain part, and 
he must by no means go that way ; but this only made him 
eager to go, and he took his bow and arrows and started. 

1 Walpole, ' Four Years in the Pacific,' vol. ii. p. 375. 

2 Turner, ■ Polynesia,' pp. 245, 248. Tyerman & Bennet, vol. ii. p. 40 ; and 
see vol. i. p. 433. Ellis, Polyn. Kes., vol. ii. p. 415. 


When he had walked a long while, he lay down on a knoll, 
where the sun had melted the snow, and fell fast asleep ; but 
while he was sleeping the sun beat so hot upon him, that his 
bird- skin coat was all singed and shrunk. When he awoke 
and found his coat spoilt, he vowed vengeance against the sun, 
and bade his sister make him a snare. She made him one of 
deer's sinew, and then one of her own hair, but they would not 
do. At last she brought him one that was right; he pulled it 
between his lips, and, as he pulled, it became a red metal cord. 
With this he set out a little after midnight, and fixed his snare 
on a spot just where the sun would strike the land, as it rose 
above the earth's disc, and sure enough he caught the sun, so 
that it was held fast in the cord and did not rise. The animals 
who ruled the earth were immediately put into a great commo- 
tion. They had no light. They called a council to debate upon 
the matter, and to appoint some one to go and cut the cord, for 
this was a very hazardous enterprise, as the rays of the sun 
would burn whoever came so near. At last the dormouse un- 
dertook it, for at this time the dormouse was the largest animal 
in the world. When it stood up it looked like a mountain. 
When it got to the place where the sun was snared, its back 
began to smoke and burn with the intensity of the heat, and 
the top of its carcass was reduced to enormous heaps of ashes. 
It succeeded, however, in cutting the cord with its teeth, and 
freeing the sun ; but it was reduced to a very small size, and 
has remained so ever since. 1 

In this North American tale we have the Sun- Catcher of the 
South Sea Islands, combined with part of our own Jack and 
the Beanstalk. As Jack, in spite of his mother's prayers, goes 
up the ladder that is to take him to the dwelling of the Giant 
who killed his father, so the boy of the American tale will not 
heed his sister's persuasion, but goes to seek the enemies who 
had slain his kindred. In the next two versions, also from 
North America, the incident of the going up a tree to the coun- 
try in the sky, as Jack goes up his beanstalk, makes its appear- 
ance. And in all three, the loosing of the imprisoned sun is 

1 Schoolcraft, • Oneota ;' New York and London, 1845, p. 75. See ante, 
p. 312. 


told in a story of which the European fable of the Lion and the 
Mouse might be a mere moralized remnant. 

In the story found among the Wyandots, in the seventeenth 
century, by the missionary Paul le Jeune, it is related that 
there was a child whose father was killed and eaten by a bear, 
and his mother by the Great Hare ; a woman came and found 
the child, and adopted him as her little brother, calling him 
Chakabech. He did not grow bigger than a baby, but he was 
so strong that the trees served as arrows for his bow. When 
he had killed the destroyers of his parents, he wished to go up 
to heaven, and climbed up a tree ; then he blew upon it, and it 
grew up and up till he came up to heaven, and there he found 
a beautiful country. So he went down to fetch his sister, 
building huts as he went down to lodge her in ; brought her 
up the tree into heaven, and then broke off the tree low down : 
so no one can go up to heaven that way. Then Chakabech 
went out and set his snares for game, but when he got up at 
night to look at them, he found everything on fire, and went 
back to his sister to tell her. Then she told him he must have 
caught the Sun, going along by night he must have got in un- 
awares, and when Chakabech went to see, so it was ; but he 
dared not go near enough to let him out. But by chance he 
found a little Mouse, and blew upon her till she grew so big 
that she could set the Sun free, and he went again on his 
way ; but while he was held in the snare, day failed down here 
on earth. 1 

The first and second American versions of the Sun- Catcher 
come from near the great lakes', but the third is found among 
the Dog-Rib Indians, far in the north-west, close upon the 
Esquimaux who fringe the northern coast. When Chapewee, 
after the deluge, formed the earth, and landed the animals upon 
it from his canoe, he " stuck up a piece of wood, which became 
a fir-tree, and grew with amazing rapidity, until its top reached 
the skies. A squirrel ran up this tree, and was pursued by 
Chapewee, who endeavoured to knock it down, but could not 

1 Le Jeune (1637) in ' Relations des Jesuites dans la Nouvelle -France ;' 
Quebec, 1858, vol. i. p. 54. Schoolcraft, part iii. p. 320. See also page 336, in the 
present Chapter. 


overtake it. He continued the chase, however, until he reached 
the stars, where he found a fine plain, and a beaten road. In 
this road he set a snare, made of his sister's hair, and then re- 
turned to the earth. The sun appeared as usual in the heavens 
in the morning, but at noon it was caught by the snare which 
Chapewee had set for the squirrel, and the sky was instantly 
darkened. Chapewee's family on this said to him, you must 
have done something wrong when you were aloft, for we no 
longer enjoy the light of day. ' I have/ replied he, ' but it was 
unintentionally/ Chapewee then endeavoured to repair the 
fault he had committed, and sent a number of animals up the 
tree to release the sun by cutting the snare, but the intense 
heat of that luminary reduced them all to ashes. The efforts 
of the more active animals being thus frustrated, a ground 
mole, though such a grovelling and awkward beast, succeeded 
by burrowing under the road in the sky until it reached and 
cut asunder the snare which bound the sun. It lost its eyes, 
however, the instant it thrust its head into the light, and its 
nose and teeth have ever since been brown, as if burnt." 1 

The origin of the story of the Sun- Catcher is not yet clear, 
but probably some piece of unequivocal evidence will be found 
to explain it. It may be noticed that there are to be found in 
the Old World ideas of the sun being bound with a cord to 
hold it in check. In Reynard the Fox, the day is bound with 
a rope, and its bonds only let it come slowly on. In a Hun- 
garian tale midnight and dawn are bound, so that they can get 
no farther towards men. 2 This notion is curiously like the 
Peruvian story of the Inca who denied the pretension of the 
Sun to be the doer of all things, for if he were free, he would 
go and visit other parts of the heavens where he had never 
been. He is, said the Inca, like a tied beast who goes ever 
round and round in the same track. 3 

The legend of the Ascent to Heaven by the Tree has just 

1 Bichardson, Narr. of Franklin's Second Exp. ; London, 1828, p. 291. 

2 Grimm, D. M., p. 706. See Steinthal, ' Die Sage von Simson,' in Lazarus & 
Steinthal's ' Zeitschrift ;' Berlin, 1862, vol. ii. p. 141. 

3 Garcilaso de la Vega, part i. viii. 8. See also Acosta, Hist, del Nuevo Orbe, 
chap. v. 


been brought forward in two of its American versions, 1 taken 
down at periods two centuries apart, and among tribes not 
only separated by long distance, but speaking languages of 
two distinct families, and yet in both cases embodying also the 
story of the Sun- Catcher. A further examination of the story 
of Jack and the Bean Stalk, and the analogous tales which are 
spread through the Malay and Polynesian districts and North 
America, will bring into view the vast ramifications of a mythic 
episode flourishing far and wide in these distant regions, though 
so scantily represented in the folk-lore of Europe. 

Once upon a time there was a poor widow, and she had one 
son, and his name was Jack. One day she sent him to sell the 
cow, but when he saw some pretty -coloured beans that the 
butcher had, he was so delighted that he gave the cow for them 
and brought his prize home in triumph. When the poor mother 
saw the beans that Jack had brought home she flung them 
away, and they grew and grew till next morning they had 
grown right up into the sky. So Jack climbed up sorely against 
his mother's will, and saw the fairy, and went to the house 
of the giant who had killed his father, and stole the hen that 
laid the golden eggs, and did various other wonderful things, 
till at last the giant came running after him and followed him 
down the bean-stalk, but Jack was just in time to cut the 
ladder through, and the wicked Giant tumbled down head first 
into the well, and there he was drowned. 

So runs the good old nursery tale of Jack and the Bean- 
stalk. That it is found in England and yet is not general in 
the folk-lore of the rest of our race in Europe is remarkable. 
Mr. Campbell says it is not known in the Highlands of Scot- 
land, while in Germany Wilhelm Grimm only compare* it with 
two poor, dull little stories, one a version distinctly connected 
with our English tale, the other perhaps so, but neither worth 
repeating here. 2 

In another American tradition, found current among the 
Mandans, the ascent is not from the earth to the sky, but from 
the regions underground to the surface. It is thus related in 

1 See also Schoolcraft, part iii. p. 547 ; part i. plate 52, p. 378. 

2 J. & W. Grimm, ' Marchen,' vol. ii. p. 133 ; vol. iii. pp. 193, 321. 


the account of Lewis and Clarke's expedition. " Their belief 
in a future state is connected with this tradition of their origin : 
the whole nation resided in one large village underground near 
a subterraneous lake : a grape-vine extended its roots down to 
their habitation and gave them a view of the light : some of 
the most adventurous climbed up the vine and were delighted 
with the sight of the earth, which they found covered with 
buffalo and rich with every kind of fruits : returning with the 
grapes they had gathered, their countrymen were so pleased 
with the taste of them that the whole nation resolved to leave 
their dull residence for the charms of the upper region ; men, 
women, and children ascended by means of the vine ; but when 
about half the nation had reached the surface of the earth, a 
corpulent woman who was clambering up the vine broke it with 
her weight, and closed upon herself and the rest of the nation 
the light of the sun. Those who were left on earth made a 
village below where we saw the nine villages ; and when the 
Mandans die they expect to return to the original seats of their 
forefathers ; the good reaching the ancient village by means of 
the lake, which the burden of the sins of the wicked will not 
enable them to cross." 1 

The set of Malayo-Polynesian stories which tell of the climb- 
ing from earth to heaven by a tree or vine-like plant is, besides, 
a good illustration of the unity of the Island Mythology from 
Borneo to New Zealand. The Dayak tale of the man who went 
up to heaven and brought down rice has been already cited. It 
is thus told by Mr. St. John : — " Once upon a time, when man- 
kind had nothing to eat but a species of edible fungus that 
grows upon rotting trees, and there were no cereals to gladden 
and strengthen man's heart, a party of Dayaks, among whom 
was a man named Si Jura, whose descendants live to this day 
in the Dayak village of Simpok, went forth to sea. They sailed 
on for some time, until they came to a place at which they 
heard the distant roar of a large whirlpool, and, to their amaze- 
ment, saw before them a huge fruit-tree rooted in the sky, and 
thence hanging down with its branches touching the waves. At 
the request of his companions, Si Jura climbed among its boughs 

1 Lewis & Clarke, p. 139. Catlin, vol. i. p. 178. See Loskiel, p. 31. 


to collect tlie fruit which was in abundance, and when he was 
there he found himself tempted to ascend the trunk and find 
out how the tree grew in that position. He did so, and at 
length got so high that his companions in the boat lost sight 
of him, and after waiting a certain time coolly sailed away- 
loaded with fruit. Looking down from his lofty position, Si 
Jura saw his friends making off, so he had no other resource 
but to go on climbing in hopes of reaching some resting-place. 
He therefore persevered climbing higher and higher, till he 
reached the roots of the tree, and there he found himself in a 
new country — that of the Pleiades. There he met a being in 
form of a man, named Si Kira, who took him to his home and 
hospitably entertained him. The food offered was a mess of 
soft white grains — boiled rice. ' Eat/ said Si Kira. I What, 
those little maggots V replied Si Jura. * They are not mag- 
gots, but boiled rice ;' and Si Kira forthwith explained the 
process of planting, weeding, and reaping, and of pounding 
and boiling rice. ... So Si Jura made a hearty meal, and 
after eating, Si Kira gave him seed of three kinds of rice, in- 
structed him how to cut down the forest, burn, plant, weed, 
and reap, take omens from birds, and celebrate harvest feasts ; 
and then, by a long rope, let him down to earth again near his 
father's house." 1 

In the Malay island of Celebes a story is found which con- 
tains the episode of the heaven-plant, but in a different con- 
nexion. It is indeed a legend of no common interest, as bring- 
ing the old European story of the Swan- coat 2 together with an 
equally unmistakable version of a tale found also among the 
natives of New Zealand. Seven heavenly nymphs came down 
from the sky to bathe, and they were seen by Kasimbaha, who 
thought first that they were white doves, but in the bath he 
saw that they were women. Then he stole one of the thin 

1 St. John, vol. i. p. 202. 

2 Among a number of instances, in the Vdhmdarqvitha, three women sit on 
the shore with their swan-coats beside them, ready to turn into swans and fly 
away. Or three doves fly down to a fountain and become maidens when they 
touch the earth. Wielant takes their clothes and will not give them back till one 
consents to be his wife, etc. etc. Grimm, D. M., pp. 398-402. 


robes that gave the nymphs their power of flying, and so he 
caught Utahagi, the one whose robe he had stolen, and took 
her for his wife, and she bore him a son. Now she was called 
Utahagi from a single white hair she had, which was endowed 
with magic power, and this hair her husband pulled out. As 
soon as he had done it, there arose a great storm, and Utahagi 
went up into heaven. The child cried for its mother, and 
Kasimbaha was in great grief, and cast about how he should 
follow Utahagi up into the sky. Then a rat gnawed the thorns 
off the rattans, and he clambered up by them with his son upon 
his back till he came to heaven. There a little bird showed 
him the house of Utahagi, and after various adventures he took 
up his abode among the gods. 1 

From Celebes to New Zealand the distance is some four 
thousand miles, but among the Maoris a tale is found which is 
beyond doubt of common origin with this. There was once a 
great chief called Tawhaki, and a girl of the heavenly race, 
whose name was Tango-tango, heard of his valour and his 
beauty and came down to earth to be his wife, and she bore a 
daughter to him. But when Tawhaki took the little girl to a 
spring and had washed it, he held it out at arm's length and 
said, " Faugh, how badly the little thing smells." When 
Tango-tango heard this, she was bitterly offended and began 
to sob and weep, and at last she took the child and flew up to 
heaven with it. Tawhaki tried to stop her and besought her 
to stay, but in vain, and as she paused for a minute with one 
foot resting on the carved figure at the end of the ridge-pole 
of the house, above the door, he called to her to leave him 
some remembrance of her. Then she told him that he was 
not to lay hold of the loose root of the creeper, which dropping 
from aloft sways to and fro in the air, but rather to lay fast 
hold on that which hanging down from on high has again 
struck its fibres into the earth. So she floated up into the air 
and vanished, and Tawhaki remained mourning : at the end 
of a month he could bear it no longer, so he took his younger 
brother with him, and two slaves, and started to look for his 

1 Schirren, p. 126. Compare Bornean story, Bp. of Labuan in Tr. Eth. Soc, 
1863, p. 27. 


wife and child. At last the brothers came to the spot where 
the ends of the tendrils which hung down from heaven reached 
the earth, and there they found an old ancestress of theirs, 
whose name was Matakerepo. She was appointed to take 
care of the tendrils, and she sat at the place where they touched 
the earth and held the ends of one of them in her hands. So 
next day the younger brother, Karihi, started to climb up, and 
the old woman warned him not to look down when he was 
midway between heaven and earth, lest he should turn giddy 
and fall, and also to take care not to catch hold of a loose ten- 
dril. But just at that very moment he made a spring at the 
tendrils, and by mistake caught hold of a loose one, and away 
he swung to the very edge of the horizon, but a blast of wind 
blew forth from thence and drove him back to the other side 
of the skies, and then another gust swept him heavenwards, 
and again he was blown down. Just as he reached the ground 
this time Tawhaki shouted to him to let go, and lo, he stood 
upon the earth once more, and the two brothers wept over his 
narrow escape from destruction. Then Tawhaki began to 
climb, and he went up and up, repeating a powerful incantation 
as he climbed, till at last he reached the heavens, and there he 
found his wife and their daughter, and they took her to the 
water and baptized her in proper New Zealand fashion. Light- 
ning flashed from Tawhaki's armpits, and he still dwells up 
there in heaven, and when he walks, his footsteps make the 
thunder and lightning that are heard and seen on earth. 1 

There are other mythological ways beside the Heaven-tree, 
by which, in different parts of the world, it is possible to go 

1 Grey, ' Polynesian Mythology,' p. 66, etc. Several incidents are here omitted. 
In another version Tawhaki goes up not by the creeper but upon a spider's web. 
(Thomson, N. Z., vol. i. p. 111. Yate, p. 144.) Other stories connected with this 
series are to be found in the Samoan group. The taro, like the rice in Borneo, is 
brought down from heaven ; there was a heaven-tree, where people went up and 
down, and when it fell it stretched some sixty miles ; two young men went up to 
the moon, one by a tree, the other on the smoke of a fire as it towered into the sky 
(Turner, p. 216). In the Caroline Islands, another of these Kairuofiarou goes up to 
heaven on a column of smoke to visit his celestial father (J. K. Forster, Obs. 
p. 606). In the Tonga Islands, Maui makes the toa grow up to heaven, so that the 
god Etumatubua can come down by it (Schirren, p. 76). 


up and down between the surface of the ground and the sky 
or the regions below ; the rank spear-grass, a rope or thong, 
a spider's web, a ladder of iron or gold, a column of smoke, or 
the rainbow. It must be remembered in discussing such tales, 
that the idea of climbing, for instance, from earth to heaven 
by a tree, fantastic as it may seem to a civilized man of mo- 
dern times, is in a different grade of culture quite a simple and 
natural idea, and too much stress must not be laid on bare 
coincidences to this effect in proving a common origin for the 
stories which contain them, unless closer evidence is forth- 
coming. Such tales belong to a rude and primitive state of 
knowledge of the earth's surface, and what lies above and be- 
low it. The earth is a flat plain surrounded by the sea, and 
the sky forms a roof on which the sun, moon, and stars travel. 
The Polynesians, who thought, like so many other peoples, 
ancient and modern, that the sky descended at the horizon 
and enclosed the earth, still call foreigners papalangi, or 
" heaven-bursters," as having broken in from another world 
outside. The sky is to most savages what it is called in a 
South American language, mumesehe, that is, the " earth on 
high." 1 There are holes or windows through this roof or fir- 
mament, where the rain comes through, and if you climb high 
enough you can get through and visit the dwellers above, who 
look, and talk, and live very much in the same way as the 
people upon earth. As above the flat earth, so below it, there 
are regions inhabited by men or man-like creatures, who some- 
times come up to the surface, and sometimes are visited by the 
inhabitants of the upper earth. We live as it were upon the 
ground floor of a great house, with upper storeys rising one 
over another above us, and cellars down below. 

The Bridge of the Dead is one of the well-marked myths of 
the Old World. Over the midst of the Moslem hell stretches 
the bridge Es-Sirat, finer than a hair, and sharper than the 
edge of a sword. There all souls of the dead must pass along, 
but while the good reach the other side in safety, the wicked 
fall off into the abyss. The Jews, too, have their bridge of 
hell, narrow as a thread, but it is only the souls of the unbe- 
1 Humboldt and Bonpland, vol. ii. p. 276. 


lievers who have to pass there. " The brig of dread, no brader 
than a thread/' is in an old English wake-song from the 
North Country, and the bridge where the disembodied souls 
of the dead pass the river Gjoll is part and parcel of the story 
of Balder, in the Prose Edda. 1 At this day, the Karens of 
Burmah tie strings across the rivers to serve as bridges for the 
ghosts of the dead to pass over to their graves. 2 Unlike 
the last two stories, the Heaven- Bridge does not seem to be- 
long to Polynesia, but then the South Sea Islanders have 
little to do with bridges. In Java, however, it is found, but in 
company with purely Indian matter, such as the Sapta Patala, 
the seven regions of hell, so that it is likely that it is not a real 
Malay belief, but came across from Asia. Batara Guru built a 
wall of stone round Suralaya, the Dwelling of the Gods, and 
round it he formed the Abyss Kawah, and set a bridge over it 
to reach the single opening in the Wall of Heaven. Off this 
bridge the evildoers fall into the depths below. 3 

In North America, the Bridge of the Dead forms part of the 
Indian mythology. The Minnetarees, it is recorded in the ac- 
count of Major Long's expedition, which was published in 1823, 
believe that, in their way to the mansions of their ancestors 
after death, they have to cross a narrow footing over a rapid 
river, where the good warriors and hunters pass, but the 
worthless ones fall in. 4 Catlin's account of the Choctaw belief 
is as follows : — " Our people all believe that the spirit lives in 
a future state ; that it has a great distance to travel after death 
towards the west — that it has to cross a dreadful deep and rapid 
stream, which is hemmed in on both sides by high and rugged 
hills — over this stream, from hill to hill, there lies a long and 
slippery pine-log, with the bark peeled off, over which the dead 
have to pass to the delightful hunting-grounds. On the other 
side of the stream there are six persons of the good hunting- 
grounds with rocks in their hands, which they throw at them 
all when they are on the middle of the log. The good walk on 
safely to the good hunting-grounds. . . . The wicked see the 
stones coming, and try to dodge, by which they fall down from 

1 Lane, vol. i. p. 95. Grimm, D. M., p. 794. See Bastian, vol. ii. p. 340. 

2 Mrs. Mason, p. 73. a Schirren, pp. 122, 125. 4 Long's Exp., vol. i. p. 280. 


the log, and go thousands of feet to the water, which is dash- 
ing over the rocks/' 1 In the interior of South America the idea 
appears again among the Manacicas. Among these people, the 
Maponos or priests performed a kind of baptism of the dead, 
and were then supposed to mount into the air, and carry the 
soul to the Land of the Departed. After a weary journey of 
many days over hills and vales, through forests, and across 
rivers and swamps and lakes, they came to a place where 
many roads met, near a deep and wide river, where the god 
Tatusiso stood night and day upon a wooden bridge to inspect 
all such travellers. If he did not consider the sprinkling after 
death a sufficient purgation of the sins of the departed, he 
would stop the priest, that the soul he carried might be fur- 
ther cleansed, and if resistance were made, would sometimes 
seize the unhappy soul and throw him into the river, and when 
this happened some calamity would follow among the Manacicas 
at home. 2 

The Bridge of the Dead may possibly have its origin in the 
rainbow. Among the Northmen the rainbow is to be seen in the 
bridge Bifrost of the three colours, over which the ^Esir make 
their daily journey, and the red in it is fire, for were it easy to 
pass over, the Frost-giants and the Mountain -giants would get 
across it into heaven. In a remark, evidently belonging to the 
North American story of the Sun- Catcher, the rainbow replaces 
the tree up which the mouse climbs, and gnaws loose a captive 
in the sky. 3 The Milky Way, which among the North Ame- 
rican Indians is the road of souls to the other world, has also a 
claim to be considered. 4 As in the Old World, so in the New, 
the Bridge of the Dead is but an incident, sometimes, but not 
always or even mostly, introduced into a wider belief that after 
death the soul of man comes to a great gulf or stream, which it 
has to pass to reach the country that lies beyond* the grave. 
The Mythology of Polynesia, though it wants the Bridge, deve- 
lopes the idea of the gulf which the souls have to pass, in canoes 

1 Catlin, vol. ii. p. 127. 

2 Southey, * Brazil,' vol. iii. p. 186. 

3 Schoolcraft in Pott, ' Ungleichheit der Menschlichen Eassen ;' Lemgo, 1856, 
p. 267. 4 Le Jeune (1634), p. 63. 


or by swimming, into a long series of myths. 1 It is not needful 
to enter here into details of so well-known a feature of the 
Mythology of the Old World, where Charon and his boat, the 
procession of the dead by water to their long home, in modern 
Brittany as in ancient Egypt, the setting afloat of the Scandi- 
navian heroes in burning ships, or burying them in boats on 
shore, are all instances of its prevalence. In North America 
we hear sometimes of the bridge, but sometimes the water 
must be passed in canoes. The souls come to a great lake 
where there is a beautiful island, toward Which they have to 
paddle in a canoe of white shining stone. On the way there 
arises a storm, and the wicked souls are wrecked, and the 
heaps of their bones are to be seen under water, but the good 
reach the happy island. 2 So Charlevoix speaks of the souls 
that are shipwrecked in crossing the river which they have to 
pass on their long journey toward the west, 3 and with this be- 
lief the canoe-burial of the North- West and of Patagonia hangs 
together. How the souls of the Ojibwas cross the deep and 
rapid water to reach the land of bliss, 4 and the souls of the 
Mandans travel on the lake by which the good reach their an- 
cient village, while the wicked cannot get across for the bur- 
den of their sins, 5 I do not know; but, like the Heaven-Bridge, 
the Heaven- Gulf which has to be passed on the way to the 
Land of Spirits, has a claim to careful discussion in the general 
argument for the proof of historical connexion from Analogy 
of Myths. 

The Fountain of Youth is known to the Mythology of India. 
The Acvinas let the husband of Sukanya go into the lake, 
whence the bather comes forth as old or as young as he may 
choose ; aud elsewhere the ' ( ageless river," vijard nadi, makes 
the old young again by only seeing it, or perhaps by bathing 
in its waters. 6 Perhaps it is this fountain that Sir John Maun- 
devile hears of early in the fourteenth century somewhere about 
India. " Also toward the heed of that Forest, is the Cytee of 

1 Williams, ' Fiji,' vol. i. pp. 244, 205. Schirren, pp. 93, 110, etc. 

2 Schoolcraft, part i. p. 321. Mackenzie, p. cxix. 

3 Charlevoix, vol. vi. p. 76. 4 Schoolcraft, part ii. p. 135. 
5 Lewis & Clarke, p. 139. 6 Kuhn, pp. 128, 12. 


Polombe. And above the Cytee is a grete Mountayne, that 
also is clept Polombe; and of that Mount the Cytee hathe his 
name. And at the Foot of that Mount, is a fayr Welle and a 
gret, that hathe odour and savour of alle Spices ; and at every 
hour of the day, he chaungethe his odour and his savour 
dyversely. And whoso drynkethe 3 tymes fasting of that 
Watre of that Welle, he is hool of alle maner sykenesse, that 
he hathe. And thei that dwellen there and drynken often of 
that Welle, thei nevere han Sekenesse, and thei semen alle ways 
5onge. I have dronken there of 3 or 4 sithes; and 3it, me- 
thinkethe, I fare the better. Sum men clepen it the Welle of 
3outhe : for thei that often drynken there of, semen alle weys 
3ongly, and lyven with outen Sykenesse. And men seyn, that 
that Welle cometh out of Parody 8 : and therfore it is so ver- 
tuous." l 

When Cambyses sent the Fish-Eaters to spy out the condi- 
tion of the long-lived Ethiopians, and the messengers won- 
dered to hear that they lived a hundred and twenty years or 
more, the Ethiopians took them to a fountain, where, when 
they had bathed, their bodies shone as if they had been oiled, 
and smelt like the scent of violets. 2 In Europe, too, stories of 
miraculously healing fountains have long been current. 3 The 
Moslem geographer Ibn-el-Wardi places the Fountain of Life 
in the dark south-western regions of the earth. El-Khidr 
drank of it, and will live till the day of judgment ; and Ilyas or 
Elias, whom popular belief mixes not only with El-Khidr, but 
also with St. George, the Dragon-slayer, has drunk of it like- 
wise. 4 Farther east, the idea is to be found in the Malay 
islands. Batara Guru drinks from a poisonous spring, but 
saves himself and the rest of the gods by finding a well of life ; 
and again, Nurtjaja compels the pandit Kabib, the guardian of 
the caverns below the earth, where flows the spring of immor- 
tality, to let him drink of its waters, and even to take some for 
his descendants. 5 In the Hawaiian legend, Kamapiikai, " the 
child who runs over the sea," goes with forty companions to 

1 ' The Voiage and Travaile of Sir John Maundevile, Kt. ;' London, 1725, p. 204. 

2 Herod., hi. c. 23. 3 Grimm, D. M., p. 554. Perty, p. 149. 

4 Lane, ' Thousand and One Nights,' vol. i. p. 20. 5 Schirren, p. 124. 

2 A 


Tahiti (Kahiki, that is to say, to the land far away), and brings 
back wondrous tales of Haupokane, " the belly of Kane/' and 
of the wai ora, waiola, " water of life," or wai ora roa, " water 
of enduring life/' which removes all sickness, deformity, and 
decrepitude from those who plunge beneath its waters. 1 It is 
perhaps to this story of the Sandwich Islands that Turner re- 
fers, when he says that some South Sea islanders have tradi- 
tions of a river in the spirit-world called " Water of Life," 
which makes the old young again, and they return to earth to 
live another life. 2 

One easy explanation of the Fountain of Youth suggests it- 
self at the first glance. Every islander who can see the sun go 
down old, faint, and weary into the western sea, to rise young 
and fresh from the waters, has the Fountain of Youth before 
him ; and this explanation of several, at least, of the stories is 
strengthened by their details, as when the fountain is described 
as flowing in the regions below, or in the belly of Kane, where 
the boy who climbs over the sea goes to it ; or when, like the 
dying and reviving sun, Batara Guru is poisoned, but finds the 
reviving water and is cured; 3 or when the Moslem associates 
the drinking from the fountain with Elijah of the chariot of 
fire and horses of fire ; or with St. George, the favourite me- 
diaeval bearer of the great Sun -myth. But, as these stories are 
not brought forward for the purpose of discussing their origin, 
but comparing with them a corresponding myth found across 
the Atlantic, it may suffice here to give the particulars of the 
story found current in the West Indies early in the sixteenth 
century. Gomara relates that Juan Ponce de Leon, having 
his government taken from him, and thus finding himself rich 
and without charge, fitted out two caravels, and went to seek 
for the island of Boyuca, where the Indians said there was the 
fountain that turned old men back into youths (a perennial 
spring, says Peter Martyr, so noble that the drinking of its 
waters made old men young again) . For six months he went 

1 Scliirren, p. 80. Ellis, Polyn. Res., vol. ii. p. 47. Ellis, 'Hawaii;' London, 
1827, p. 399. ■ Turner, p. 353. 

3 For etym. etc. of Batara Guru, see W. v. Humboldt, Kawi-Spr., vol. i. p. 100; 
Schirren, p. 116 ; also Crawfurd, Introd., p. cxviii. and *. vv. batara, guru. 


lost and famishing among many islands, but of such a fountain 
he found no trace. Then he came to Bimini, and discovered 
Florida on Pascua Florida, (Easter Sunday), wherefrom he 
gave the country its name. 1 

To proceed now to the story of the Tail-Fisher. Dr. Dasent, 
who, in his admirable Introduction to the Norse Tales, has 
taken the lead in the extension of the argument from Compa- 
rative Mythology beyond the limited range within which it is 
aided by History and Language, has brought the popular tales 
of Africa and Europe into close connexion by adducing, among 
others, the unmistakable common origin of the Norse tale of 
the Bear who, at the instigation of the Fox, fishes with his tail 
through a hole in the ice till it is frozen in, and then pulls at it 
till it comes off, and the story from Bornu of the Hyaena who 
puts his tail into the hole, that the Weasel may fasten the 
meat to it, but the Weasel fastens a stick to it instead, and the 
Hyaena pulls till his tail breaks ; both stories accounting in a 
similar way, but with a proper difference of local colouring, for 
the fact that bears and hyaenas are stumpy-tailed. 2 

A similar story is told in Reynard the Fox, less appositely, 
of the Wolf instead of the Bear, 3 and in the Celtic story re- 
cently published by Mr. Campbell, it is again the Wolf who 
loses his tail. In this latter story, by that kaleidoscopic ar- 
rangement of incidents which is so striking a feature of My- 
thology, the losing of the tail is combined with the episode of 
taking the reflection of the moon for a cheese, which occurs in 
another connexion in Reynard, 4 and is apparently the origin 
of our popular saying about the moon being made of green 

" He made an instrument to know 
If the moon shine at full or no ; 
That would, as soon as e'er she shone, straight 
Whether 'twere day or night demonstrate ; 

1 Gomara, Hist. Gen. de las Indias; Medina del Campo, 1553, part i. fol. xxiii. 
Petri Martyri De Orbe Novo (1516), ed. Hakluyt . ; Paris, 1587, dec. ii. e. 10. 
Galvano, p. 123. 

2 Dasent, 'Popular Tales from the Norse;' (2nd ed.) Edinburgh, 1859, pp. 1. 
197. 3 Grimm, * Reinliart Fuchs,' pp. civ. cxxii. 51. 4 Id. p. cxxvii. 

2 a 2 


Tell what her d'ameter to an inch is, 

And prove that she's not made of green cheese." 1 

Here, of course, "green cheese" means, like rvpbs ^Xo>/3o?, 
fresh, white cheese. In the Highland tale the Fox shows the 
Wolf the moon on the ice, and tells him it is a cheese, and he 
must cover it with his tail to hide it, till the Fox goes to see 
that the farmer is asleep. When the tail is frozen tight the 
Fox alarms the farmer, and the Wolf leaves his tail behind 
him. 2 

" The tailless condition both of the bear and the hya3na," 
Dr. Dasent remarks, ' ' could scarcely fail to attract attention in 
a race of hunters, and we might expect that popular tradition 
would attempt to account for both." The reasonableness of 
this conjecture is well shown in the case of two other short- 
tailed beasts, in a mythical episode from Central America, 
which bears no appearance of being historically connected 
with the rest, but looks as though it had been devised inde- 
pendently to account for the facts. When the two princes 
Hunahpu and Xbalanque set themselves one day to till the 
ground, the axe cut down the trees and the mattock cleared 
away the underwood, while the masters amused themselves 
with shooting. But next day, when they came back, they 
found the trees and creepers and brambles back in their 
places. So they cleared the ground again, and hid themselves 
to watch, and at midnight all the beasts came, small and great, 
saying in their language "Trees, arise; creepers, arise!" and 
they came close to the two princes. First came the Lion and 
the Tiger, and the princes tried to catch them, but could not. 
Then came the Stag and the Rabbit, and them they caught by 
their tails, but the tails came off, and so the Stag and the Rab- 
bit have still but " scarce a stump" left them to this day. But 
the Fox and the Jackal and the Boar and the Porcupine and 
the other beasts passed by, and they could not catch one till 
the Bat came leaping along ; he was the last and they got in 
his way and caught him in a cloth. They pinched his head 

1 ' Hudibras,' part ii. canto iii. 

2 Campbell, 'Popular Tales of the West Highlands;' Edinburgh, 1860, vol. i. 
p. 272. 


and tried to choke him, and burnt his tail over the fire, and 
since then the rat has had a hairless tail, and his eyes are as 
if they had been squeezed out of his head. But he begged to 
be heard, and told them that it was not their business to till 
the ground, for the rings and gloves and the india-rubber 
ball, the instruments of the princely game, were hidden in their 
grandmother's house, and so forth. 1 

The curious mythic art of Tail-fishing only forms a part of 
the stories how the Bear, the Wolf, and the Hyaena came to 
lose their tails in Europe and Africa. But this particular idea, 
taken by itself, has a wide geographical range both in the 
Old and New Worlds. A story current in India, apparently 
among the Tamil population of the South, is told by the Kev. 
J. Eoberts, who says, speaking of the jackal, " this animal is 
very much like the fox of England in his habits and appearance. 
I have been told, that they often catch the crab by putting 
their tail into its hole, which the creature immediately seizes, 
in hope of food : the jackal then drags it out and devours it." 2 

In North America, the bearer of the story is the racoon. 
" Lawson relates, that those which formerly lived on the salt 
waters in Carolina, fed on oysters, which they nimbly snatched 
when the shell opened ; but that sometimes the paw was 
caught, and held till the return of the tide, in which the ani- 
mal, though it swims well, was sometimes drowned. His art 
in catching crabs is still more extraordinary. Standing on the 
borders of the waters where this shell-fish abounds, he keeps 
the end of his tail floating on the surface, which the crab seizes, 
and he then leaps forward with his prey, and destroys it in a 
very artful manner." 3 In South America, the art is given to 
two other very cunning creatures, the monkey and the jaguar. 
I have been informed by one of the English explorers in British 
Guiana, that it is a current story there, that the monkey catches 
fish by letting them take hold of the end of his tail. Southey, 
quoting from a manuscript description of the district flooded 
by the Eiver Paraguay, called the Lago Xarayes, says " when 

1 Brasseur, ' Popol-Yuh,' pp. 118-25. 

" 2 Roberts, ' Oriental Illustrations,' p. 172. 

3 D. B. Warden, Account of U. S. ; Edinburgh, 1819, vol. i. p. 199. 


the floods are out the fish leave the river to feed upon certain 
fruits : as soon as they hear or feel the fruit strike the water, 
they leap to catch it as it rises to the surface, and in their eager- 
ness spring into the air. From this habit the Ounce has learnt 
a curious stratagem ; he gets upon a projecting bough, and 
from time to time strikes the water with his tail, thus imitating 
the sound which the fruit makes as it drops, and as the fish 
spring towards it, he catches them with his paw." 1 More 
recently, the story has been told again by Mr. Wallace ; " The 
jaguar, say the Indians, is the most cunning animal in the 
forest : he can imitate the voice of almost every bird and ani- 
mal so exactly, as to draw them towards him : he fishes in the 
rivers, lashing the water with his tail to imitate falling fruit, 
and when the fish approach, hooks them up with his claws." 2 
It may be objected against the use of the tail-fishing story 
as mythological evidence, that there may possibly, be some 
foundation for it in actual fact ; and it is indeed hardly more 
astonishing,, for instance, than the jaguar's turning a number 
of river-turtles on their backs to be eaten at his leisure, a 
story which Humboldt accepts as true. But the way in which 
the tail-fishing is attributed in different countries to one ani- 
mal after another, the bear, the wolf, the hyaena, the jackal, the 
racoon, the monkey, and the jaguar, authorizes the opinion 
that, in most cases at least, it is one of those floating ideas 
which are taken up as part of the story-teller's stock in trade, 
and used where it suits him, but with no particular subordina- 
tion to fact. 

Lastly, another Old World story which has a remarkable 
analogue in South America is that of the Diable Boiteux. 
This, however, in the state in which it is known to modern 
Europe, is a conception a good deal modified under Christian 
influences. In the old mythology of our race, it is the Fire- 
god who is lame. . The unsteady flickering of the flames may 
perhaps be figured in the crooked legs and hobbling gait of 
Hephaestus, and Zeus casts him down from heaven to earth 
like his crooked lightnings ; while the stories which correspond 
with the Vulcan-myth on German ground tell of the laming of 
1 Southey, vol. i. p. 142. 2 Wallace, p. 455. 


Wieland, our Wayland Smith, the representative of Hephaestus. 
The transfer of the lameness of the Fire- god to the Devil seems 
to belong to the mixture of the Scriptural Satan with, the ideas 
of heathen gods, elves, giants, and demons, which go to form 
that strange compound, the Devil of popular mediaeval belief. 1 

There is something very quaint in the notion of a lame god 
or devil, but it is quite a familiar one in South Africa. The 
deity of the Namaquas and other tribes is Tsui'kuap, whose 
principal attributes seem to be the causing of pain and death. 
This being received a wound in his knee in a great fight, and 
" Wounded-knee M appears to be the meaning of his name. 2 
Moffat's account, which is indeed not very clear, fits with a late 
remark made by Livingstone among another people of South 
Africa, the Bakwains. He observes that near the village of 
Sechele there is a cave called Lepelole, which no one dared 
to enter, for it was the common belief that it was the habita- 
tion of the Deity, and that no one who went in ever came out 
again. "It is curious," he says, "that in all their pretended 
dreams or visions of their god he has always a crooked leg, 
like the Egyptian Thau/'' 3 Even in Australia something similar 
is to be found. The Biam is held to be like a black, but de- 
formed in his lower extremities , the natives say they got many 
of the songs sung at their dances from him, but he also causes 
diseases, especially one which marks the face like small-pox. 4 

The Diable Boiteux of South America is thus described by 
Poppig, in his account of the life of the forest Indians of Mainas. 
"A ghostly being, the Uchuclla-chaqui or Lame-foot, alone 
troubles the source of his best pleasure and his livelihood. 
Where the forest is darkest, where only the light-avoiding 
amphibia and the nocturnal birds dwell, lives this dangerous 
creature, and endeavours, by putting on some friendly shape, to 
lure the Indian to his destruction. As the sociable hunters do, 

1 Welcker, * Griechische Gotterlehre ;' Gottingen, 1857, etc., vol. i. pp. 661-5. 
Grimm, D. M., pp. 221, 351, 937-8, 914, 963. See Schirren, p. 161. 

2 Moffat, pp. 257-9. 

3 Livingstone, p. 121. He means, I presume, Pthak, or rather Pthah-Sokari 

4 Eyre, vol. ii. p. 362. 


it gives the well understood signs, and, never reached itself, 
entices the deluded victim deeper and deeper into the solitude, 
disappearing with a shout of mocking laughter when the path 
home is lost, and the terrors of the wilderness are increasing 
with the growing shadows of night. Sometimes it separates 
companions who have gone hunting together, by appearing 
first in one place, then in another in an altered form ; but it 
never can deceive the wary hunter who in distrust examines 
the footsteps of his enemy. Hardly has he caught sight of the 
quite unequal size of the impressions of the feet, when he 
hastens back, and for long after no one dares to make an ex- 
pedition into the wilderness, for the visits of the fiend are only 
for a time." 1 In South America as in Africa this is not a mere 
local tale, but a widely spread belief. 

In conclusion, the analogies between the Mythology of 
America and of the rest of the world which have been here 
enumerated, when taken together with the many more which 
come into view in studying a wider range of native American 
traditions, and after full allowance has been made for the possi- 
bility of independent coincidences, seem to me to warrant the 
expectation that it will not be long before the American My- 
thology will have to be treated as embodying materials common 
to other districts of the world, mixed no doubt with purely 
native matter. Such a view would bring the early history of 
America into definite connexion with that of other regions, 
over a larger geographical range than that included in Hum- 
boldt's argument, and would bear with some force, though of 
course but indirectly, on the problem of the origin and diffusion 
of mankind. 

1 Poppig, ■ Eeise in Chile,' etc. ; Leipzig, 1835, vol. ii. p. 358. Klemm, C. G. 
vol. i. p. 276. 




It has been intimated that the present series of Essays affords 
no sufficient foundation for a definite theory of the Rise and 
Progress of Human Civilization in early times. Nor, indeed, 
will any such foundation be ready for building upon, until a 
great deal of preparatory work has been done. Still, the evi- 
dence which has here been brought together seems to tell dis- 
cs o 

tinctly for or against some widely circulated Ethnological 
theories, and also to justify a certain amount of independent 
generalization, and the results of the foregoing chapters in this 
way may now be briefly summed up, with a few additional 

In the first place, the facts collected seem to favour the view 
that the wide differences in the civilization and mental state of 
the various races of mankind are rather differences of develop- 
ment than of origin, rather of degree than of kind. Thus the 
Gesture-Language is the same in principle, and similar in its 
details, all over the world. The likeness in the formation both 
of pure myths and of those crude theories which have been 
described as "myths of observation," among races so dissi- 
milar in the colour of their skins and the shape of their skulls, 
tells in the same direction. And wherever the occurrence of 
any art or knowledge in two places can be confidently ascribed 
to independent invention, as, for instance, when we find the 
dwellers in the ancient lake-habitations of Switzerland, and the 
modern New Zealanders, adopting a like construction in their 


curious fabrics of tied bundles of fibre, the similar step thus 
made in different times and places tends to prove the similarity 
of the minds that made it. Moreover, to take a somewhat 
weaker line of argument, the uniformity with which like stages 
in the development of art and science are found among the 
most unlike races, may be adduced as evidence on the same 
side, in spite of the constant difficulty in deciding whether any 
particular development is due to independent invention, or to 
transmission from some other people to those among whom it 
is found. For if the similar thing has been produced in two 
places by independent invention, then, as has just been said, it 
is direct evidence of similarity of mind. And on the other 
hand, if it was carried from the one place to the other, or from 
a third to both, by mere transmission from people to people, 
then the smallness of the change it has suffered in transplant- 
ing is still evidence of the like nature of the soil wherever it 
is found. 

Considered both from this and other points of view, this uni- 
form development of the lower civilization is a matter of great 
interest. The state of things which is found is not indeed that 
one race does or knows exactly what another race does or 
knows, but that similar stages of development recur in different 
times and places. There is reason to suppose that our ances- 
tors in remote times made fire with a machine much like that 
of the modern Esquimaux, and at a far later date they used the 
bow and arrow, as so many savage tribes do still. The fore- 
going chapters treating of the history of some early arts, of the 
practice of sorcery, of curious customs and superstitions, are 
indeed full of instances of the recurrence of like phenomena in 
the remotest regions of the world. We might reasonably ex- 
pect that men of like minds, when placed under widely diffe- 
rent circumstances of country, climate, vegetable and animal 
life, and so forth, should develope very various phenomena of 
civilization, and we even know by evidence that they actually 
do so ; but nevertheless it strikingly illustrates the extent of 
mantal uniformity among mankind to notice that it is really 
difficult to find, among a list of twenty items of art or know- 
ledge, custom or superstition, taken at random from a descrip- 


tion of any uncivilized race, a single one to which something 
closely analogous may not be found elsewhere among some 
other race, unlike the first in physical characters, and living 
thousands of miles off. It is taking a somewhat extreme case 
to put the Australians to such a test, for they are perhaps the 
most peculiar of the lower varieties of Man, yet among the 
arts, beliefs, and customs, found among their tribes, there are 
comparatively few that cannot be matched elsewhere. They 
raise scars on their bodies like African tribes ; they circumcise 
like the Jews and Arabs ; they bar marriage in the female line 
like the Iroquois ; they drop out of their language the names of 
plants and animals which have been used as the personal names 
of dead men, and make new words to serve instead, like the 
Abipones of South America ; they bewitch their enemies with 
locks of hair, and pretend to cure the sick by sucking out 
stones through their skin, as is done in so many other regions. 
It is true that among their weapons they have one of very 
marked, perhaps even specific peculiarity, the boomerang, but 
the rest of their armoury, the spear, the spear-thrower, the 
club, the throwing-cudgel, are but varieties of instruments 
common elsewhere, and the same is true of their fire-drill, their 
stone hatchet, their nets and baskets, their bark canoes and 
rafts. And while among the Australians there are only a very 
few exceptions to modify the general rule that whatever is 
found in one place in the world may be matched more or less 
closely elsewhere, piecemeal or as a whole, the proportion of 
such exceptions is smaller, and consequently the uniformity of 
development more strikingly marked, among most of the other 
races of the world who have not risen above the lower levels of 

In the next place, the collections of facts relating to various 
useful arts seem to justify the opinion that, in such practical 
matters at least, the history of mankind has been on the whole 
a history of progress. Over almost the whole world are found 
traces of the former use of stone implements, now superseded 
by metal ; rude and laborious means of making fire have been 
supplanted by easier and better processes ; over large regions 
of the earth the art of boiling in earthen or metal pots over the 


fire lias succeeded the ruder art of stone-boiling ; in three dis- 
tant countries the art of writing sounds is found developing 
itself out of mere picture-writing, and this phonetic writing has 
superseded in several districts the use of quipus, or knotted 
cords, as a means of record and communication. In the chap- 
ter particularly devoted to evidence of progress, a number of 
facts are stated which seem to be records of a forward develop- 
ment in other arts, in times and places beyond the range of 
history. On the other hand, though arts which flourish in 
times of great refinement or luxury, and complex processes 
which require a combination of skill or labour hard to get 
together and liable to be easily disarranged, may often de- 
generate, yet the more homely and useful the art, and the less 
difficult the conditions for its exercise, the less likely it is to 
disappear from the world, unless when superseded by some 
better device. Races may and do leave off building temples 
and monuments of sculptured stone, and fall off in the execu- 
tion of masterpieces of metal-work and porcelain, but there is 
no evidence of any tribe giving up the use of the spindle to 
twist their thread by hand, or having been in the habit of 
working the fire-drill with a thong, and going back to the 
clumsier practice of working it without, and it is even hard 
to fancy such a thing happening. Since the Hottentots have 
learnt, within the last two centuries or so, to smelt the iron ore 
of their country, it is hard to imagine that anything short of 
extirpating them or driving them into a country destitute of 
iron, could make them go back to the Stone Age in which 
their ancestors lived. Some facts are quoted which bear on 
the possible degeneration of savage tribes when driven out into 
the desert, or otherwise reduced to destitution, or losing their 
old arts in the presence of a -higher civilization, but there seems 
ground for thinking that such degeneration has been rather of 
a local than of a general character, and has rather affected the 
fortunes of particular tribes than the development of the world 
at large. I do not think I have ever met with a single fact 
which seems to me to justify the theory, of which Dr. von Mar- 
tius is perhaps the leading advocate, that the ordinary condition 
of the savage is the result of degeneration from a far higher 


state. The chapter on " Images and Names/' which explains 
the arts of Magic as the effects of an early mental condition 
petrified into a series of mystic observances carried up into the 
midst of a higher culture, is indeed in the strongest opposition 
to the view that these superstitious practices are mutilated 
remnants of a higher system of belief which prevailed in former 
times, and this latter view is one of the strong points of the 
theory of degeneration. So far as may be judged from the 
scanty and defective evidence which has as yet been brought 
forward, I venture to think the most reasonable opinion to be 
that the course of development of the lower civilization has 
been on the whole in a forward direction, though interfered 
with occasionally and locally by the results of degrading and 
destroying influences. 

Granting the existence of this onward movement in the 
lower levels of art and science, the question then arises, how any 
particular piece of skill or knowledge has come into any parti- 
cular place where it is found. Three ways are open, indepen- 
dent invention, inheritance from ancestors in a distant region, 
transmission from one race to another ; but between these 
three ways the choice is commonly a difficult one. Sometimes, 
indeed, the first is evidently to be preferred. Thus, though the 
floating gardens of Mexico and Cashmere are very similar de- 
vices, it seems more likely that the Mexican chinampa was in- 
vented on the spot than that the idea of it was imported from 
a distant region. Though the wattled cloth of the Swiss lake- 
dwellings is so similar in principle to that of New Zealand, it 
is much easier to suppose it the result of separate invention 
than of historical connexion. Though both the Egyptians and 
Chinese came upon the expedient of making the picture of an 
object stand for the sound which was the name of that object, 
there is no reason to doubt their having done so independently. 

But the more difficult it is to account for observed facts in 
this way, and the more necessary it becomes to have recourse 
to theories of inheritance or transmission to explain them, the 
greater is their value in the eyes of the Ethnologist. Wherever 
he can judge that the existence of similar phenomena in the 
culture of distant peoples cannot be fairly accounted for, except 



by supposing that there has been a connexion by blood or by 
intercourse between them, then he has before him evidence 
bearing upon the history of civilization and on the history of 
mankind, evidence which shows that such movements as have 
introduced guns, axes, books, into America in historic times, 
have also taken place in unhistoric times among tribes whose 
ancestors have left them no chronicles of past ages. Thus the 
appearing of the Malay smelting-furnace in Madagascar, and 
of the outrigger canoe in East Australia and the Andaman Is- 
lands, may be appealed to as evidence of historical connexion. 
And it is possible that the Ethnographer may some day feel 
himself justified in giving to this kind of argument a far wider 
range, that he may claim, for instance, for the bow and arrow 
a common origin wherever it is found, that is, over the whole 
world with perhaps no exception but part of Polynesia, and 
part or the whole of Australia. So, noticing that the distri- 
bution of the potter's art in North America is not sporadic, as 
if a tribe here and a tribe there had wanted it and invented 
it, but that it rises northwards in a compact field from Mexico 
among the tribes East of the Rocky Mountains, he may 
argue that it spread from a single source, and is at once a re- 
sult and a proof of the transmission of civilization. Indeed, it 
seems as though the recurrence of similar groups in the inven- 
tories of instruments and works of the lower races, so remark- 
able both in the presence of like things and the comparative 
absence of unlike ones, might come to supply, in a more ad- 
vanced state of Ethnography, the materials for an indefinite 
series of arguments bearing on the early history of man. 

It is not to be denied, however, that there is usually a large 
element of uncertainty in inferences of this kind taken alone, 
and it is only in special cases that summary generalizations 
from such evidence can as yet be admitted. Indeed, its proper 
place is rather as accompanying the argument from language, 
mythology, and customs, than as standing by itself. Thus the 
appearance, just referred to, of the Malay blast-furnace in 
Madagascar has to be viewed in connexion with the affinity in 
language between Madagascar and the islands of the Eastern 
Archipelago. Putting the two things together, we may assume 


that the connexion with Madagascar dates from a time since 
the introduction of iron-smelting in a part of the great Malayo- 
Polynesian district, and belongs to that particular group of is- 
lands near the Eastern coast of Asia where this immense step 
in material civilization was made. Again, the philological re- 
searches of Buschmann, which have brought into view traces 
of the Aztec language up into the heart of North America, 
fifteen hundred miles and more north of the City of Mexico, 
join with several other lines of evidence in bringing far distant 
parts of the population of the continent into historical con- 
nexion, and in showing, at least, that such communication 
between its different peoples as may have spread the art of 
pottery from a single locality is not matter of mere speculation. 
It is in this way that it will probably be found most expedient 
to use fragmentary arguments from the distribution of the arts 
and sciences of savage tribes, in Ethnological districts where 
a way has been already opened by more certain methods. 

In its bearing on the History of Mankind, the tendency of 
modern research in the region of Comparative Mythology is 
not to be mistaken. The number of myths recorded as found 
in different countries, where it is hardly conceivable that they 
should have grown independently, goes on steadily increasing 
from year to year, each one furnishing a new clue by which 
common descent or intercourse is to be traced. Such evidence, 
as fast as it is brought before the public, is received with the 
most lively interest ; and not only is its value fully admitted, 
but there may even be observed a tendency to use it with too 
much confidence in proof of common descent, without enough 
consideration of what we know of the way in which Mythology 
really travels from race to race. The cause of the occurrence 
of a myth, or of a whole family of myths, may be, and no doubt 
often is, mere intercourse, which has as little to do with com- 
mon descent as the connexion which has planted the stories 
of the Arabian Nights among the Malays of Borneo, and the 
legends of Buddha among the Chinese. On the other hand, 
the argument from similar customs has received, as a whole, 
comparatively little attention, but it is not without importance. 
Two or three, at least, of the customs remarked upon in the 


present volume, in the group including the cure by sucking, 
the couvade, and others, such as the wide-spread superstitions 
connected with sneezing, on which Mr. Haliburton gave a lec- 
ture, in 1863, at Halifax, Nova Scotia, 1 may be adduced as 
facts for the occurrence of which in distant times and places 
it is hard to account on any other hypothesis than that of deep- 
lying connexion, by blood or intercourse, among races which 
history, and even philology, only knows as isolated sections of 
the population of the world. 

On the whole, it does not seem to be an unreasonable, or 
even an over- sanguine view, that the mass of analogies in Art 
and Knowledge, Mythology and Custom, confused and indis- 
tinct as they at present are, may already be taken to indicate 
that the civilizations of many races, whose history even the 
evidence of Language has not succeeded in bringing into con- 
nexion, have really grown up under one another's influences, 
or derived common material from a common source. But that 
such lines of argument should ever be found to converge in the 
last instance towards a single point, so as to enable the student 
to infer from reasoning on a basis of observed facts that the 
civilization of the whole world has its origin in one parent 
stock, is, in the present state of our knowledge, rather a theo- 
retical possibility than a state of things of which even the most 
dim and distant view is to be obtained. 

On another subject, on which it would not be prudent to 
offer a definite opinion, a few words may nevertheless be said. 
Every attempt to trace back the early history of civilization 
tends, however remotely, towards an ultimate limit — the pri- 
mary condition of the human race, as regards their knowledge 
of the laws of nature and their power of modifying the outer 
world for their own ends. Such lines of investigation as go 
back from the Bronze or Iron Ages to the time of the use of 
implements of stone, from the higher to the lower methods of 
fire-making, from the boat to the raft, from the use of the spin- 
dle to the art of hand-twisting, and so on, seem to enable the 
student to see back through the history of human culture to a 
state of art and science somewhat resembling that of the savage 
1 'Anthropological Review,' Nov. 1863, p. 491. 


tribes of modern times. It is useful to work back to this 
point, at least as a temporary resting-place in the argument, 
seeing that a state of things really known to exist is generally 
more convenient to reason upon than a purely theoretical one. 
But if we may judge that the present condition of savage tribes 
is the complex result of not only a long but an eventful history, 
in which development of culture may have been more or less 
interfered with by degradation caused by war, disease, oppres- 
sion, and other mishaps, it does not seem likely that any tribe 
known to modern observers should be anything like a fair 
representative of primary conditions. Still, positive evidence 
of anything lower than the known state of savages is scarce 
in the extreme. If indeed we may feel certain that the men 
whose tools and weapons are found in the Drift Beds, in the 
Bone Caves, and in the Shell-Heaps of Denmark, were not in 
the habit of grinding the edges of any of their stone imple- 
ments, such a state of things may be instanced as evidence of 
a condition of one of the useful arts lying below anything that 
has been observed among the lowest savage tribes. Even if it 
should be established that a few isolated specimens of ground 
implements occur among the thousands of unground ones be- 
longing to this lowest division of the Stone Age, its general 
character, as consisting almost exclusively of unground imple- 
ments, would remain nearly as distinct as ever from anything 
recorded among tribes known to travellers or historians. 

To turn to a very different department of culture, some of 
the facts belonging to the history of custom and superstition 
may for the last time be referred to, as perhaps having their 
common root in a mental condition underlying anything to be 
met with now. The remarkable custom of the Couvade, which 
in several distant regions of the world appears a mere dark 
superstitious mystery, finds an intelligible explanation among 
the South American tribes who consciously believe that dif- 
ferent persons are not necessarily separate beings, as we take 
them to be, but that there is such a physical connexion between 
father and son, that the diet of the one affects the health of 
the other. The early fusion of objective and subjective rela- 
tions in the mind, of the effects of which in superstitious prac- 

2 n 


tices handed down from age to age so much has been said in 
this book, may perhaps not be fully or exactly represented in 
the mental state of any living tribe of men. 

There have been indeed few more important movements in 
the course of the history of mankind, than this change of opi- 
nion as to the nature and relations of what is in the mind and 
what is out of it. To say nothing of its vast effects upon 
Ethics and Keligion, the whole course of Science, and of Art, 
of which Science is a principal element, have been deeply in- 
fluenced by this mental change. Man's views of the difference 
between imagination and reality, of the nature of cause and 
effect, of the connexion between himself and the external world, 
and of the parts of the external world among themselves, have 
been entirely altered by it. To the times before this movement 
had gone too far, belong the developments of Mythology, so 
puzzling to later ages which had risen to a higher mental 
state, and had then thrown down the ladder they had climbed 
by. The modern deciphering of ancient myths has been per- 
haps more valuable than any direct examination of savage 
races, in giving us the means of realizing that early state of 
mind in which there is scarcely any distinct barrier between 
fact and fancy, — to which whatever is similar is the same. If 
the clouds are driven across the sky like cows from their pas- 
ture, they are not merely compared to cows, but are thought 
and talked of as though they really were cows ; if the sun 
travels along its course like a glittering chariot, forthwith the 
wheels and the driver and the horses are there ; while by treat- 
ing a name as though it necessarily represented a person, it 
becomes possible to evolve out of the contemplation of nature 
those wonderful stories in which even the earth, the sea, and 
the sky, combine with their natural attributes a kind of half- 
human personality. The opinion that dreams and phantasms 
have an objective existence out of the mind that perceives 
them, and that when two ideas are associated in a man's mind 
the objects to which those ideas belong must have a corre- 
sponding physical connexion, are views over which the long 
course of observation and study of nature has brought a vast 
change. These things belong to that early condition of the 


human mind, from which, to say nothing of the special views 
of metaphysicians and leaders in science, the ordinary ideas of 
Man and Nature held by educated men differ so widely. How- 
ever far these ideas may in their turn be left behind, the growth 
which can be traced within the range of our own observation 
and inference, is one of no scant measure. It may bear com- 
parison with one of the great changes in the mental life of the 
individual man, perhaps rather with the expansion and fixing 
of the mind which accompanies the passage from infancy into 
youth, than with the later steps from youth into manhood, or 
from manhood into old age. 



Abipones, 140, 146, 290, etc. 

Adobe, 99. 

vEolian flutes, living, 177. 

Africa, Beast-Fables of, 10-2, 355; 

Stone Age in, 219-22. 
Alnajah of Ethiopia, 216. 
Alphabets and Syllabaria, 101-5 : Fin- 
ger-alphabet, 17. 
America, connexion of its civilization 

with that of the Old World, 206, 275, 

American chroniclers, 250. 
Andaman Islanders, 160. 
Archimedes, his burning mirrors, 248. 
Architecture, evidence of progress in, 

Ark, 323. 

Arrow-heads, stone, 208, 210, 221. 
Articulation of deaf-mutes, 70-5. 
Arts, transmission of, 167, etc., 365. 
Aryan race, their use of metal, 212 ; 

their fire apparatus, 241, 254. 
Astrology, 132. 
Aubin, M., on phonetic characters of 

Mexicans, 94-6. 
Australians, 141, 144, 176, 200, 261, 

280, 363, etc. 
Axes, stone, 199. 

Bakalahari, 184. 

Baking in hollow trees, ant-hills, pits, 

Balsam of Judaea, 217. 

Bamboo, fire produced from, 237. 

Barbecue, 261. 

Basques, 297. 

Beast-Fables in Europe and , Africa, 
10-2, 355 ; Lion and Mouse, 342. 

Bee-hunting, Australian method of, 176. 

Bellows for iron-smelting, 167. 

Bewitching, by images, 118-20, 125 ; 
by earth-cutting, 120; by names, 
124-6 ; by locks of hair, parings of 
nails, leavings of food, etc. 127-30 ; 
by symbolic charms, 130, 133 ; by 
'wishing,' 133 ; bv the evil eye, 134. 

Bible, tales derived from, 329-31 . 

Bird-trap, rudimentary, 169. 

Blast-pump for iron-smelting, in East 
and Madagascar, 167-9, 366. 

Boats, remains of, on mountains, etc., 

Boats and rafts, 162. 

Boiling, 261-9 ; with hot stones, 262-7; 
vessels for, 267-9. 

Bolas, 176. 

Bone-caves, 196, 312 ; stone imple- 
ments of, 196. 

Bones burnt for fuel, 183. 

Boomerang, 175, 186, 363. 

Bread-fruit paste, 179. 

Bridge of Dead, 349-52. 

Bronze Age in America, 205 ; in Asia, 

Bucaneers, 261. 

Bucaning, 260. 

Burial in canoes, etc., 352. 

Burning-lens, 247. 

Burning-mirror, 248-51. 

Bushmen, 184. 

Calculation by stones, 163. 

Calendars of N. A. Indians, 91 ; of 
Mexicans, 92, 332. 

Caliban, 245. 

Celts, stone, 198-201. 

Central America, ruined cities of, 181, 

Charms, 130. 

Cherokees, their syllabarium, 104. 

Chinampas, 171. 

China, aboriginal tribes of, 207, 294. 

Chinese, their clan-names, 278; their 
phonetic writing, 99-101. 

Chocolate, 177. 

Christy, Mr: H., his exploration of bone- 
caves of Perigord, 196 ; finding stone- 
implements in North Africa, 221. 

Churn worked with cord, 240. 

Circumcision : — with stone knives 
among Jews, 214-8 ; Kabbinical law 
as to instrument, 215 ; among Alna- 
jah in Ethiopia, 216 ; in Fiji islands, 
216; in Australia, 218. 



Cistercians, their gesture-language, 40-2. 

Civilization, progress of, 2, 118, 136, 
148, 150, etc., 197, 292, 296, 363, 
371 j decline of, 180-7, 364. 

Clan-names : — in China, 278 ; Aus- 
tralia, 280 ; persons of same, may not 
marry, 277-82. 

Climbing by hoops, etc., 170. 

Cloth of bundles of fibre, 188-90. 

Cock and Bull stories, 10. 

Colour of feathers changed in live birds, 

Cooking, 259-69 ; en papillote, 173 ; 
roasting and broiling, 259 ; baking, 
259 ; underground ovens, 260 ; bu- 
caning or barbecuing, 260 ; boiling, 
261-9 ; stone-boiling, 262-7. 

Copper, native, used by stone-age races 
in North America, 204. 

Cord, hand-twisting of, 188. 

Corsicans, 297. 

Couvade, 287-97, 369 ; in South Ame- 
rica and West India, 288-94 ; North 
America, Africa, and Eastern Archi- 
pelago, 294 ; Asia, 294 ; Europe, 
295 ; its ethnological value, 296. 

Customs, 273-97, 367; tying clothes 
of couple in wedding, 47 ; fire not 
touched with sharp instrument, 275 ; 
sucking-cure, etc., 275-7, 296; re- 
strictions from marriage of kindred, 
277-84; Spartan marriage, 280-4; 
restrictions to intercourse of parents- 
in-law and children-in-law, 285-7 ; 
tabued relationships, 287 ; couvade, 
287-97, 369 ; usages concerning 
sneezing, 368. 

Cybele, priests of, 217. 

Dasent, Dr., his argument from Beast- 
Fables, 10, 355. 

Dead, names of, not mentioned, 142, 

Deaf and dumb, their mental condition 
and education, 17, (: 5-75 ; of them- 
selves utter words, 72-5 ; their lip- 
imitation of words, 73. 

Decline of culture, 180-7, 364; Dr. 
von Martius's theory of, 135 ; A. von 
Humboldt on, 186. 

Deluge, 89, 317-24, 329, 340. 

Devil painted white, 113 ; attributes of 
Fire-god, etc., given to, 359. 

Diable Boiteux, 358-60. 

Digger Indians, 185. 

Divination, 131. 

Doing, in sense of practising magic, 

Dolls and toys, 107-9. 

Dreams and phantasms, argument 
from, 5-10. 

Drift gravels, stone implements in, 
193-6 ; Mr. Prestwich on age of, 
194 ; extinct animals of, 303-5. 

Drills for boring holes and for fire- 
making, 187, 239-45. 

Drink = river, 37. 

Drum, 138. 

Dumb, becomes term for foreign, bar- 
barian, stupid, young, 34, 65. 

Earrings, etc., 1. 

Eclipse, 163. 

Effigies, 122. 

Eggs, artificial hatching of, 181. 

Egypt : hieroglyphics, 97-9 ; Coptic 

alphabet, 101 ; decline in arts, 181 ; 

stone arrow-heads, 209 ; stone em- 

balmer's knives, etc., 217. 
Elephant, white, 274. 
Erman, on rukh and griffin, 311. 
Esquimaux, 166, 204, 241, 319, etc. 
Evans, Mr. J., on wattled cloth of 

Swiss lake-dwellings, 188. 
Evil eye, 53, 134. 

Father put to bed, etc., on birth of 
child, see Couvade, 287-97, 369; 
parentage ascribed only to, 293. 

Fergusson, Mr., on wooden forms in 
architecture, 166. 

Fetish, 135. 

Fire, myths of origin of, 228-30, 

Fire, new, 248-57 ;— Yestal, 248 ; in 
Peru, 249 ; in India, 254 ; on Easter 
Eve, 256 ; in Russia, 257 ; see also 

Fire, not touched with sharp instru- 
ment, 275. 

Fire, races reported to be destitute of, 
228-34; G-uanches, 228; Islanders 
of Los Jardiues, 229 ; of Fakaafo, 
229 ; of the Ladrones and Philip- 
pines, 231 ; tribe in French Guiana, 
233 ; Ethiopian tribes, 233. 

Fire-drill :— simple, 237-9, 249-59 ; as 
carpenter's brace, 240 ; thong- drill, 
240, 254 ; bow-drill, 243 ; pump- 
drill, 243-5. 

Fire-making : — Tasmanians and Aus- 
tralians said to have no means of, 
234; methods of, in different coun- 
tries, 236-59; stick-and-groove, 236; 
striking fire with bamboo, 237 ; fire- 
drill, 237-45 ; striking fire with iron 
pyrites, 245, 259 ; with stones, etc., 
246 ; flint and steel, 247 ; burning- 



lens, 247 ; burning-mirror, 248-51 ; 
lucifer matches, 251 ; wooden fric- 
tion-apparatus, kept up to modern 
times, 252 ; evidence of early use of, 
in different countries, 252-9. 

Flamen Dialis, 136. 

Flint and steel, 247. 

Floating gardens, etc., 171. 

Food superstitions, 131. 

Footmarks, in Mexican picture-writings, 

Footprints, mythic, 115-7. 

Fork, eating-, 173-5. 

Fossil' bones, shells, etc., myths of ob- 
servation connected with, 308-24. 

Fountain of Youth, 352-5. 

Fuegians, 162, 245, 259, 261, 264, etc. 

Gauchos, 240. 

Gesture-language, 14-82 : — of deaf-and- 
dumb, 16-33 ; nature of, 15, etc. 
arbitrary signs, 22 ; epithets, 23 
absence of grammatical categories 
24, 62 ; grammar and syntax, 25-32 
g. 1. of savage tribes, 34-40 ; syntax 
39 ; g. 1. of Cistercian monks, 40-2 
the Pantomime, 42-4 ; g. 1. as an ac 
companiment to speech, 44, etc. 
common to mankind, 53 ; evidence 
of mental similarity, 54; compared 
with speech, 58-64 ; its dualism 
compared with that of speech, 59-62 ; 
prepositions, 61 ; theory that g. 1. 
was the original utterance of man, 64. 

Gesture-signs, 37, 45-53 ; translated in 
language, 37 ; nodding and shaking 
head, 38 ; kissing hand, 38 ; sign of 
benediction, 38 ; beckoning, etc., 45, 
52 ; snapping fingers, 45 ; grasping 
and shaking hands, 45-7 ; crouching, 
bowing, kneeling, etc., 47 ; gestures 
of prayer, 48 ; uncovering head, feet, 
and body, 48-51 ; rubbing noses, 
etc., 51 ; signs of contempt, etc., 52 ; 
against evil eye, 53. 

Giants, 314-9. 

Glass, legend of invention of, 151 ; sub- 
stituted for stone in making knives, 
etc., 218. 

Gold work of Mexico, 205. 

Gourds, etc., plastered with clay, 270. 

Griffins, 310-2. 

Grinding and polishing stone imple- 
ments, 198-201, 369. 

Guanches, 228. 

Guano, 177. 

Hair, bewitching by locks of, etc., 

Hammers, stone, 191-3, 199, 224. 

Hammock, 175. 

Harpocrates, 41. 

Heads, preserved, of New Zealand, 

Hebrides, inhabitants of, 268. 

Heyse, on thought and speech, 68. 

Horns, used to point weapons, etc., 

Hot stones, baking with, 260 ; boiling 
with, 262-7. 

Hottentots, 10-2, 219. 

Humboldt, A. v., on connexion of Mexi- 
cans with Asia, 92, 206, 331; on 
human degeneration, 186 ; on Mexi- 
can elephant-like head, 304. 

Husband, name of, not mentioned by 
wife, 141. 

Ichthyophagi, 209. 

Ideas, association of, with images and 
words, 107-49. 

Idiots, use of gesture-language in edu- 
cation of, 79. 

Idols, 110-3. 

Images, etc., 107-23. 

Incubi and Succubi, 7. 

India, stone implements in, 212 ; fire- 
making, 238, 254 ; marriage, 47, 

Indians of N. America : gesture-lan- 
guage, 35-40; picture-writing, 83-93. 

Individuals, not held to be physically 
separate by lower races, 292. 

Inventors and civilizers, legends of, 
150-4, 208, 230, 252, 299, etc. 

Iron, meteoric, used by Esquimaux, 

Irrigation, decline in art of, 183. 

Jack and the Beanstalk, 340-9. 
Japan, stone implements in, 210. 
Jews, their use of stone knives, 213-8. 
Jonah, 337. 

Joshua, stones knives in tomb of, 214. 
Jupiter Lapis, 226. 

Kafirs, 141, 147, etc. 

Kamchadals, 207, 238, 264, 275, 319, 

Kang-hi, his Encyclopa;dia, 208, 309, 

Kava or Ava, 179. 

Kettles, of bark, paunch, hide, split 
bamboo, potstone, etc., 267-9. 

Khorsabad, obsidian flake-knives under 
temple of, 210. 

Kings' and chiefs' names not men- 
tioned, 142-4. 



Kjokkenmoddings, stone implements 

of, 197. 
Knives, stone flake-, 194-8, 210. 

Language, origin of, 15, 55-8, 64 ; Chi- 
nese myth of, 59 ; stories of attempts 
to discover original 1. by experiments 
on children, 80-2 ; speech compared 
with gesture-language, 58-64 ; pre- 
dicative and demonstrative roots 
compared with two classes of ges- 
ture-signs, 59-62 ; -concretism, 62 ; 
verb-roots, 63 ; syntax, 63 : relation 
of speech to thought, 68-75 ; deaf- 
and-dumb of themselves speak, 
72-5 ; their lip-imitation of words, 
73 ; language modified by supersti- 
tions concerning words, in Polynesia 
144, Australia 145, Tasmania 145, 
among Abipones 146, Kafirs 147, 
Yezidis 147, English and Americans 
147 ; evidence from language as to 
progress in culture, 162-4, 253 ; as 
to Stone Age, 212-4. 

Lartet and Christy, on bone caves of 
Perigord, 196. 

Lazarus, Prof., 215, 283, 287. 

Letters. See Phonetic Characters. 

Life, future, 5-10, 293, 349-52. 

Little Red Riding-Hood, 338. 

Livre des Sauvages, 89. 

Madagascar, 167-9, 225, 239. 

Magic and sorcery, theory of, 118-39. 

Malay stone-implements, 211. 

Malayo-Polynesians, 167, 178, etc. 

Mammoths and other extinct animals, 
possible recollection of, 303 ; myths 
derived from remains of, 308-12. 

Man, his degeneration in size and length 
of life, 316 ; mental uniformity of, 
361-3 ; primary condition of, 368. 

Man in the Moon, etc., 326. 

Man swallowed by Fish, 336-8. 

Map-making, 90. 

Marriage, prohibition of, among kin- 
dred, 277, etc. ; in Europe, 277 ; 
Asia, 277-9 ; Africa, 280 ; Australia, 
280 ; America, 281-3 ; extended to 
imaginary kindred, 284 ; wife carried 
off' by force, 280, 284 ; crossing male 
and female lines, 277-81. 

Martius, Dr. v., his theory of degene- 
ration, 135, 364. 

Massagetse, 206. 

Metal-working in Mexico and Peru, 205. 

Mexico ; — picture-writing, 91-7, 304 ; 
calendars, 92, 332 ; phonetic charac- 
ters, 94-6 ; Quetzalcohuatl and the 

Toltecs, 151-4 ; stone implements, 
191 ; metal-work, 205 ; fire-drill, 
239; Humboldt on connexion of 
Mexican civilization with Asia, 92, 
206, 275, 305, 331. 

Mirrors of pyrites and obsidian, 251, 259. 

Moslems, their opinion on images, 121. 

Mound-builders of Mississippi Valley, 

Muller, Prof. Max, 61, 147. 

Myths, 306-60, 370 ; of origin of lan- 
guage, 59 ; connected with shapes of 
rocks, 114 ; of footprints, 115 ; of 
Quetzalcohuatl, 151-4 ; Sun-myths, 
151-4, 338-43, 354 ; myths relating 
to stone arrow-heads, 210, 223 ; to 
dolmens in North Africa, 221 ; of 
thunderbolt, 222-7 ; of Prometheus, 
228, 254 ; of origin of fire in Poly- 
nesia, 230 ; China, 252 ; Phoenicia, 
253 ; of monstrous tribes, 234 ; 
growth of, 232 ; permanence of, 233 ; 
of Old World transferred to New, 
250 ; geographical distribution of, 
325-60 ; common nature and charac- 
ter of, among different races, 326-9 ; 
man in the moon, etc., 326 ; sun and 
moon brother and sister, 327 ; Castor 
and Pollux in Tasmania, 327 ; trans- 
mission of, 329-31, 367; derived from 
Bible stories, etc., 329-31 ; of Ame- 
rica compared with those of Old 
World, 332-60 ; World-Tortoise, 
332-6; Man swallowed by Fish, 
336-8; Sun-Catcher, 338-43; Tom 
Thumb, 336-40 ; Little Red Riding- 
Hood, 338 ; Jack and the Beanstalk, 
340-9 ; ascent to heaven by the Tree, 
341-9; Swan-coat, 346; Bridge of 
Dead, 349-52 ; Fountain of Youth, 
352-5; Tail-fisher, 355-8; Moon taken 
for cheese, 355 ; stumpy-tailed ani- 
mals, 355 ; Diable Boiteux, 358-60 ; 
value of myths as historical evidence, 
367. See also Myths of Observation, 
Beast-Fables, and Traditions. 

Myths of Observation, 298, 306-24 :— 
petrified lentils, 307 ; sun hissing in 
sea, 307 ; rain of stones, 308 ; con- 
nected with fossil remains, 308-24 ; 
mammoths, mastodons, etc., 308-14 ; 
rhinoceros horns, 310-2 ; griffins; 
310-2 ; animals coming out of caves, 
312; creatures which die on seeing 
daylight, 309, 313; giants, 314-7; 
degeneration of man's stature, 316 ; 
bearing of fossils and remains of boats 
on Deluge-traditions, 317-24 ; bones 
of whales on high mountains, 319. 



Names : — their association with objects, 
124 ; their use in magic, etc., 124-7 ; 
concealed, 125 ; changed to deceive 
evil spirits, 126 ; exchanged in token 
of amity, 126; avoidance of use of 
certain personal names, own, of others, 
of husbands, of parents- and children- 
in-law, of other connexions, of kings 
and chiefs, of dead, of spirits, of su- 
perhuman beings, 139-47, 285-7. 

Needfire, 255-8. 

New Zealanders, 161, 188, 201, 264, etc. 

North American Indians, their picture- 
writing, [83-8, 91 ; calendars, 91 ; 
syllabarium of Cherokees, 104. 

Numa Pompilius, 248. 

Numerals, Roman, etc., 105. 

Objective and subjective impressions 
and connexions confused, 117-49, 
292, 369. 

Ornamentation of urns, 271. 

Ostyaks, images of dead, 110. 

Parents-in-law and children-in-law, ob- 
servances concerning, 141-7 ; re- 
strictions to intercourse of, 285-7. 

PeUet-bow, 177. 

Peru : — metal-work of, 205 ; New Fire, 
249 ; Virgins of the Sun compared 
with Vestal Virgins of Rome, 250. 

Phonetic characters, 94-106 ; of Mexi- 
cans, 94-6 ; Egyptian hieroglyphs, 
97-9 ; of Chinese, 99-101 j of Cen- 
tral America, 100; alphabets and 
syllabaria, 101-5. 

Picture-writing, etc., 83-106, 159 ; of 
North American Indians, 83-91 ; of 
Mexicans, 91-7 ; numerals, 105. 

Plants, sympathetic, 132. 

Polynesians, 142-4, 161, 174, 237, 265, 
299 337 etc. 

Pottery, 175, 179, 263-6; Goguet's 
theory of origin of, 269-72 ; tran- 
sition vessels, 269-72; gourd-shapes, 
270 ; ornamentation, 271. 

Prometheus, 228, 254. 

Puris and Coroados, 76-9. 

Pygmies, 233. 

Pyrites, striking fire with, 245, 259. 

Quaternary deposits, 193 ; possible tra- 
ditions of animals of, 303-5. 
Quetzalcohuatl, 151-4. 
Quipus, 154-8. 

Rabbinical law as to circumcision, 

Rainmakers, 133. 
Rattles, 137. 

Reindeer-tribes of Central France, 196 • 

Reynard the Fox, 11, 355. 

Rice, traditions of introduction of, 

301-3, 346. 
Roasting and broiling food, 259. 
Rukh, 311. 

Sago, 178. 

Samovar, 165. 

Samson, 339, 343. 

Sanchoniathon, cosmogony of, 253. 

Semitic race, their alphabet, 102 ; stone 
implements, 213-8. 

Shell heaps, stone implements of, 192, 

Signatures, doctrine of, 123. 

Similarity in arts, customs, beliefs, etc., 
in distant regions, arguments from, 
5, 139, 169, 201-3, 260, 273, 296, 
323, 325, etc., 361-3. 

Sneezing, customs relating to, 368. 

Sorcerers : — their arts, 127-39 ; rattles 
and drums, 137; cure by sucking, 
etc., 275-7. 

Soul, future life of, 5-10, 293, 349-52. 

Sound and colour, comparison of, 71. 

Spartan marriage, 280-4. 

Spindle, 188-90. 

Spirits :— of dead affected through re- 
mains of bodies, 129 ; names of s. 
not mentioned, 143. 

Steinthal, Prof., on gesture-language, 
14 ; on thought and speech, 69. 

Stick-and-groove, 236. 

Stone, ornaments of hard, made by low 
South American tribes, 186. 

Stone Age, 191-227 ; unground, 193-7, 
369 ; ground, 198-203 ; evidence of, 
in different parts of the world, 
203-27 j evidence of language as to, 

Stone-boiling, 262-7, 302. 

Stone implements, 191-227 ; late surviv- 
ing, 191 ; natural stones used, 191-3 ; 
implements of Drift, 193-6 ; similar 
ones elsewhere, 195 ; of bone-caves, 
196; of Scandinavian shell-heaps, 
197 ; grinding and polishing, 
196-201; flake-knives, 198; celts, 
198-200 ; hammers, 199 ; axes, 199 ; 
special instruments, 200 ; high-class 
celts in Australia, 200 ; patu-patu of 
New Zealand and S. America, 201 ; 
general similarity of stone imple- 
ments of different countries, 202 ; 
countries found under Stone Age 
conditions, 204; stone implements 
of N. and S. America, 205 ; Kam- 
chatka, 207 ; China, 207 ; Tartary, 

% C 



208 ; lightning-stones, 208 ; stone 
arrow-heads of Tunguz, 208 ; of 
Egyptians, 209 ; of the field of Ma- 
rathon, etc., 209 ; stone implements 
of Ichthyophagi, 209 ; of W. and N. 
Asia, 210 ; Japan, 210 ; Java, Malay 
Peninsula, etc., 211 ; India, 212 ; 
Europe, 212; Aryans, 212 ; evidence 
of language as to, 212-4 ; use of 
stone implements by Jews and Al- 
najah, 213-8 ; used for ■circumcising, 
214-8 ; for slaughtering beasts, 216, 
222, 226 ; for incision of corpse to 
be embalmed in Egypt, 217 ; for ex- 
tracting balsam of Judaea, 217 ; stone 
implements in Africa, 219-222 ; Ca- 
nary Islands, 222; thought to be 
thunderbolts, 222-7; to be natural 
stones, 208, 224 ; used to sacrifice 
victims with in Africa, 222 ; in Rome, 

Stumpy-tailed animals, myths relating 
to, 355. 

Sugar, 178. 

Sun-myths, 151-4, 338-43, 354. 

Supernatural beings, 110 ; names of, 
not mentioned, 143, 147. 

Superstitions, 131-48, 218, 296, 369 ; 
relating to thunderbolt, 225 ; need- 
fire, 256 ; albino elephant, 274 ; seeds 
put with gold-dust, etc., 274 ; touch- 
ing fire with knife, etc., 275. See also 

Swan-coat, 346. 

Swiss lake-dwellers, 188, 197. 

Symbolic offerings, 122. 

Tabu, 130, 142-5, 287. 

Tail-fishing, etc., 355-8. 

Tally, 166. 

Tasmanians, 77-9, 195, 234, 327. 

Tea-urn, 165. 

Teeth, artificial, 173 ; stopping teeth 

with gold, 173. 
Textile fabrics, 188-90. 
Thunderbolt, 208, 211, 222-7. 

Toddy, 178. 

Toltecs, 152-4. 

Tom Thumb, 336-40. 

Tortoise-myth, 305, 332-6. 

Totem, 281. 

Traditions, 298-306 ; of inventors and 
civilizers, 150-4 ; of quipu in China, 
154, 299 ; of Polynesia, 299 ; Cen- 
tral America, 300 ; in tropics, appa- 
rently belonging to high latitudes, 
300 ; of introduction of rice, 301 ; 
first appearance of white men among 
N.W. American tribe, 302; possible 
recollection of mammoth, colossal 
tortoise, great ape, etc., 303-6 ; de- 
luge, 317-24. 

Tribes said to be deficient in speech, 
75-9 ; degraded, 184 ; said to have 
no fire or no means of fire-making, 

Utterance, not by speech only, 14 ; its 
relation to thought, 68-75. 

Veddahs, 77-9, 238. 

Vei syllabarium, 104. 

Vessels :— for stone-boiling, 262-7, 302; 
of bark, paunch, hide, bamboo, etc., 
for setting over fire, 267-9 ; of pot- 
stone, 268 ; pottery, 269-72 ; gourds, 
etc., plastered with clay, 270. 

Vestal virgins, 248-50. 

Wattled cloth, 188-90. 

Weaving, 178, 188. 

Whately, Archbishop, his theory of 

civilization, 160-2. 
Wild fire, 252. 
Words, superstitions concerning, 124-7, 

World, conception of, among lower 

races, 333, 349. 
Writing, see Picture-writing, Phonetic 

characters ; use of, in magic, etc., 




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